Frankenwein: The creed of silvaner and passion for pinot noir

In March of 2017 the Deutsches Weininstitut invited me to ProWein, the international wine congress in Düsseldorf, Germany. My hosts included the ProWein press department, Messe Düsseldorf and Wines of Germany. A few months ago I commented that Prowein is “of such immense proportion that words, description and explanation just fail to do it justice. If you are an agent your goals are simple; meet with your incumbent suppliers and taste with enough new ones to fill the holes in your portfolio. But what if you are a journalist like me? What do you concentrate on? Were do you start?”

“Das Glaubensbekenntnis! Silvaner”

On day one I made a beeline for the Germany pavilion, epicentre to the ProWein universe. Gravity would naturally pull you to the Mosel and yet I was in search of an alternative experience. With travels to the Ahr Valley and the Rheinhessen looming I gravitated (naturally) to Franken and more specifically to an intensive workshop with silvaner and spätburgunder. The Bavarian wine region is located east of Frankfurt (and 65 km/40 miles east of the Rhine) on south-facing slopes lining the Main River and its tributaries. The centre of Franconia is the town of Würzburg, home of the famed vineyard Stein, which gave rise to the generic term Steinwein, formerly used to denote all of the region’s wines. It would be an understatement to call Franken a cool-climate growing region. Even in a world gripped by climate change it can still be too cold for riesling. This is where silvaner thrives, in spite of cold winters, high annual rainfall and very cool autumn conditions. Müller-Thurgau is the most planted grade variety and silvaner is second.

Franken Silvaner

The most prized Franken wines were (and to some extent still are) traditionally bottled in a Bocksbeutel, a squat green or brown flagon with a round body. A loyalty to history contends that considerable recognition value is added to the region’s wines but the days of the old flattened ellipsoid, field bottle silvaner packaged in traditional Franconian Bocksbeutel are receding behind us. We are seeing a diurnal shift as they are increasingly replaced by modern, clean and pure examples that match up with the great mineral fresh whites around the planet. The silvaner slogan “Das Glaubensbekenntnis! Silvaner” led me to discover the great white history and future of this most important Franken grape.

Passion für Pinot Noir!

Passion für Pinot Noir! is the avant-garde Deutscher Qualitäswein Franken slogan for spätburgunder. The idea behind pinot noir in Bavaria is just about as outsider a concept as making wine instead of beer or habituating Protestants in a world of Catholics, but micro-climates are a wondrous thing. The avant-garde Franconia winemaking is one of the great overlooked stories in wine today and nowhere else is this evident than in the work being put in with pinot noir on the Franconian fringe of varietal possibility.

The producers have entered into an era of defining cru vineyards, like Sulzfelder Maustal with soil rich in shell limestone, Sommeracher’s Katzenkopf and Centgrafenberg, in Bürgstadt. The styles on display at Prowein duly noted in a flight of 12 were varied, sometimes mimicking other German regions, California and Burgundy. More often than not they are purely and expressly Franken, of dusty red cherry, mineral, bright energy, citrus and with oak working for bites and spice. A heed and a warning: Once you taste Franken pinot noir you may never go back.

Related – Godello’s March through Prowein, The Ahr Valley and The Rheinhessen

Records indicate the last Ontario VINTAGES German silvaner release was on May 10, 2014. The two before that were on July 6, 2013 and February 2, 2013 . You would have to look back almost another full calendar year, to May 12, 2012, for the one previous to that. Since nothing has come through again, allowing so many years to pass without offering a single bottle of Franken silvaner to the Ontario wine consumer amounts to a crime against Frankenwein. With respect to spätburgunder I can find no history of VINTAGES releases in Ontario. In fact there are currently only two German pinot noir available here at home, one from Pfalz and the other, Baden. Franken isn’t even on the radar. There are no Franken wines anywhere to be found.

I was very impressed with the quality of both the silvaner and the spätburgunder in my two sit-downs at the Prowein Franken booth so hopefully I can shed some light on what everyone is missing. Once again it is important to recognize the people responsible for allowing me to take part in this German wine experience; Stefan Egge, Christiane Schorn, Brigitte Küppers, Michael Mandel and Carola Keller. Until ProWein 2018, here are 22 notes on Franken silvaner and spätburgunder.

“Das Glaubensbekenntnis! Silvaner”

Weingut Brennfleck Silvaner Trocken Mönchshöflein, Großes Gewächs, Sulzfelder Maustal 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

A warming, humid and rich 14 per cent dry silvaner, unctuous and viscous. The aromas peel ripe yellow-fleshed peach and scrape concrete while the texture comes leesy and exceptionally tart. A very mature, adult, dry silvaner for rich fish and seafood. Scallops would adore this, but pork belly would also cut a rug with its agile stepping ability. Also carries the most subtle effervescent tingle. So very interesting and part of the developing story. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017     #Brennfleck  Weingut Brennfleck  @frankenwein   #frankenwein  Frankenwein Fränkische Weinkönigin  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

Selsam + Schneider Silvaner Trocken, Escherndorfer Fürstenberg 2012, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Silvaner of herbology and spirit, dry but with aromatic faux botrytis, white peach and white flowers. Tastes like there is some barrel ferment on the fruit because it shows that sauvignon blanc sweet note, but also some grapefruit and lime. Quite spirited though I’d wish the acidity were more demanding and that the finish would linger longer. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017

Rudolf May Silvaner Retzstadter Langenberg Der Schäfer 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

May’s Der Schäfer silvaner comes from the Retztadter Langenberg, a slope of muschelkalk (predominantly from the lower muschelkalk, or wellenkalk) that characterizes the soil. Looking east the location is protected by the Retzstadt deciduous forest and the warm air of the Maintales flows from the west. This specialized and extra-special silvaner is balanced in its aromatic ability meets proper and right-willing alcohol (13.5), with great quality acidity. True salinity and caper brine put my mind’s senses into concepts where this shares a kinship with assytrtiko. It’s brilliant, stony-gemstone able, savoury, no actually sapid, and exceptionally mouth salivating. Just a touch of texture driven lees builds character and great persistence. Bitters before the end are finely distilled and character building. Fresh to drink now and with more ability than most to age. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2017    #rudolfmay @Weingut.Rudolf.May  

Rainer Sauer Ab Ovo Silvaner Vom Ei Ursprünglich Von Anfang An 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Faux sweet leesy, of a lactic nose but dry, this is made in that Stellenbosch chenin blanc style; tart, taut and high in white citrus acidity. Really tart palate but beautifully so, nicely rendered salinity in a simple package. Not the most complex but the easy drinking silvaner. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted March 2017    #rainersauer  Daniel Sauer

Weingut Otmar Zang Silvaner J40 Alte Reben Sommerach 2014, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

The amphora silver shines, bringing a concrete meets waxy richness, and you can smell the bees and the wet aggregate mix. Herbs and salt are generous but suppressed or at least stirred in, like lees and in a way, like a dry into wet baking mix. Thicker and unctuous on the palate with a touch of residual sweetness, this runs the gamut from savoury to just slightly confected so ultimately the goal here is the time-accumulated eventuality of honey. Tastes a bit like young figs or dates and so the interest level is high in terms of silvaner. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @WeingutOtmarZang

Baldauf Clees Silvaner Spätlese Trocken, Ramsthal, Pfarrwengert 2014, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

This is the platinum, metallurgical, alloy mineral silvaner, the inside of the pipe and the soil tart, old school expression but also pure, clean and dry. Still an air-dry silvaner, rich on the palate and very varietal obvious. This kind of tart is so specific to the history and perpetual tang of such locale-driven silvaner. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @Weingut.Baldauf

Franken Riemenschneider Silvaner 1er Traube Spätlese Trocken, Asthheimer Karthäuser 2014, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Perhaps the most old school of the lot and the acumen so confident in delivering the most convincing need for traditional style. What Spätlese is to Franken silvaner it is not to anywhere else with the late harvest style. This is saline, balsamic briny, yellow plum acidity laced and of an almond blossom sweetness that just simply melts in. Power in commitment and longevity are a given, R.E.M. melodic, even in later career composition. “If this is what you’re offering,” of great persistence, “I’ll take the rain.” Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  #Riemenschneider

Weingut Weigand Der Held Silvaner Trocken, Iphofen 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Done in Amphora from hold, stall and grant beginnings, there acts by hue and from aroma a bit of skin contact. Carries a lees and beeswax note, along with wet rock salt and the humidity inside of a concrete tank. Both agreeable and complex, the palate elevates this wine, never relaxes and defaults into simple viscosity, but continuously refreshes. This is the first to carry a true lemon and lime tune, the most reigned in richness and a sense of cure. Modern and serious but more about how much it knows its capabilities of taking hold of tradition and moving it forward. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017  weingut_weigand_franken    @WeingutGaestehausWeigand

Weingut Horst Sauer Silvaner Sehnsucht Trocken, Escherndorfer 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Back to the faux sweet, very leesy silvaner, this is about texture and mouthfeel after the citrus and mineral sweet aromas. Again this reminds of South African chenin blanc, tart and taut, very dry and of a typicality that modern silvaner will do in a risk aversion way. A proper introduction into what modern silvaner has to be with very good length. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  #weinguthorstsauer     @weinguthorstsauer  Sandra Sauer

Juliusspital Silvaner Trocken, Würzburger 2016, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Also from amphora, the mineral bronzing in hue and on the palate is again old-school, what it was and has been. Waxy on the nose and palate and this combines the old school amphora with the new way chenin style, but this has some palate sweetness mixed with a very tangy-tart taste. Quite intense though the mid-palate thins while the acidity shines and then it’s very long. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  #juliusspital  #Juliusspital  Juliusspital Weinstuben Würzburg

The world also needs more #frankenweine #spätburgunder #prowein2017 #pinotnoir

Passion für Pinot Noir!

Weingut Josef Walter Spätburgunder Hundsrück “J” Trocken 2013, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Very pretty, perfectly evolved, all strawberry but some of it in dried and dusty garnish form. Certainly spirited, high-toned, elevating, rising still. Beautifully tart, seemingly calcareous, easy to drink, with soft but sweet tannins and most excellent. For every day though with some light heat on the finish. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017

Divino Pinot Noir Trocken Gg, Grobes Greväches, 1m Barrique Gereift 2012, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

A very ripe, high octane (14.5 per cent alcohol) grand cru spätburgunder, still rustic and leathery, some dried fruit and though high-toned, quite evolved. The oak is very noticeable, as are the tannins and finishing bitters. Much happening and this really reminds of a warm New Zealand, ripe and extracted pinot. North Island stuff in the Franken. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted March 2017  #divinonordheim  @divino_nordheim  @divino.nordheim

Zehnthof Luckert Wein&Gut Sulzfelder Maustal Spätburgunder Gg, Vdp. Grosse Lage 2012, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

This is the completely other grand cru, go tell it to the world pinot noir, pencil and graphite laden, lead and dusty cherry. Great mouthful and brightness with vitality and energy despite its age. Pure, red-spoken citrus and spice. The oak here works for bites and crisp baking moments, not smoulder or finished cake accent. Love this energy. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  zehnthof_luckert    @VDP_Estates  @zehnthofluckert  Philipp Luckert

Weingut Roth Spätburgunder Gg Trocken Biowein, Wiesenbronner Heller Berg, Vdp Erste Lage 2013, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Organic and warming (at 14 per cent abv) but this seems to be the median norm for phenolic ripeness and with or without the oak treatment of choice. This certainly treads on the darker cherry fruit plain though that pinot noir Franken/Ahr/Baden/Alsace tonality is present, accounted for and wholly acceptable within the parameters of omniscient typicity. The only one with a reductive note so far so air and more time will help inflate and then deflate the vacuum. Very tart and a bit of Chinese five-spice, sweet and sour with chunks of pineapple worked in. This unique specimen is possessive of a savoury-sweet commingling. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  #weingutroth  @Weingut_Roth  @Weingut.Roth

Weingut Then Authentisch Spätburgunder Trocken Sommeracher Katzenkopf, Authentisch Kommt Von Then 2013, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

The most volatile and reductive of the lot, this is funky-dirty, full of dark red fruit and so taut. Most of the aromas are dominated by the suffocation spume and then this turns so tart and sour. It has character and potential to be sure but the fruit is having trouble speaking out. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2017  #weingutthen  Weingut Then

Dürr Münch Then Zehner Krämer Russ Wolter Familie Gewächs Spätburgunder Trocken 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

So young and bright, beautifully fresh, wild berry and cherry pinot noir. Exactly what you want from a warm and forgiving vintage, but this has sneaky underlying structure and great natural acidity. The deliverer is nothing if not a pure, totally natural and honest example of Franken spåtburgunder. Answers both questions with yes and yes. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017

Höfling Spätburgunder Trocken Kalbenstein Gambach, Großes Gewächs 2013, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

This strikes as the great ambassador, middle of the road, best of both or even all worlds GG and (there is enough complexity in Franken pinot noir to make this declaration). Bright and pure, phenolically ripe and from the strawberry vintage, with the ridge crested between the fresh and the edge of drying fruit. This is like really honest, never over-wooded Chianti Classico and/or CCR Riserva from a similarly farmed vintage. It’s almost sangiovese like in its rusticity, tradition and honest to goodness cherry, leather and red citrus acidity. Seminal stuff. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @weinguthoefling

May Spätburgunder Recis Retzbacher Benediktusberg 2013, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

From Rudolf May, another stinky and reductive pinot noir but with a mess of bright red fruit so chalk this limestone-nosing one up to structure and be patient. There is something pure about this risk-taking one, like (Ontario reference alert) Norm Hardie of impossible litheness and in fact at 13.0 per cent this is very low and slow for the locale. Wow, this is so distant cousin to the County! I would guess this ferment was sluggish and tardy so be wary of the reduction and give it air or hopefully two more years time. It’s atypical for 2013, somewhat of a rogue and clearly destined to be a future star when pinot noir becomes this producer’s primary focus of intent. It already seems to be. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2017    #rudolfmay @Weingut.Rudolf.May

Franken Riemenschneider Spätburgunder Trocken Mainstockheimer Hofstück 1er Traube 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

A step up in quality and cru for 2015, from a block that most certainly has been identified for its pinot noir plant and gift ability. The premier cru for varietal Franken, of a deeper mineral push and what must be exposure and aspect with excellent solar receptive capability. It shows in the darker fruit, licking Sonoma and with its firm grip perhaps a nod to Russian River Valley. This carries exceptional fruit in its character pocket, really fine round acidity and even finer tannin. It will age without much evolution for three to five years and linger for an equal amount of time more. Not the brightest and lightest get to know me example but clearly one to seek out in the pinot noir diaspora. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted March 2017  #Riemenschneider

Weingut Richard Östreicher Spätburgunder No. 1 Sommeracher Katzenkopf 2013, Franken, Germany (WineryWineAlign)

No. 1 takes not only the estate’s best pinot noir pick but Franken spätburgunder and paradigmatic pinot noir to an entirely new level. The Katzenkopf (“cat’s head”) is Sommeracher’s best vineyard and it is Weingut Richard Östreicher that demands great respect. As I am about to pour myself a taste a ProWein Franken booth associate swoops in and slips me a Burgundy glass, so this must be different. Certainly an elegance and a refinement not seen yet. I’m thinking only on its perfume from the get go but this Franken sensibility is more important, a soil component that just acts of its own accord in the magic it brings to pinot noir. The compatibility of fruit and acidity with the finest grains of sweet and refined tannin is a revelation. The vintage is an important one to be sure and the firm but still amenably sweet finish mixed with a dash of tonic tells me about the longevity this No. 1 is capable to execute. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted March 2017  #richardöstreicher  Richard Östreicher

Fürst Spätburgunder Centgrafenberg Gg, Bürgstadt 2008, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Here is the only older pinot noir on the table and a terrific example of the age ability of Franken. Though the fruit is waning the brightness has not yet left the building. The lightness, airy and earthy enough to remind you that Burgundy feeling is the entry point and the history lesson. The lactic acid is fading but there is life yet. A bit chewy and it can be imagined how fleshy this once was. No mushroom or anything of that ilk has come through so this will fade nicely into the pinot noir sunset over the proceeding three plus years. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017    Weingut Rudolf Fürst

Weingut Schenk Spätburgunder Handverlesen Trocken 2014, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

One of the magically lithe and unassuming pinot noirs of the lot, the berries are rubbed with light sandy earth with that granite current running beneath. The shading is a bit darker considering the light personality so the lactic edge is reduced and this will evolve a bit quicker than some others. A great duck accompaniment and very Beaune in a modernist’s way. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  weingutschenk  @weingutschenk

So much to say about #silvaner and #spätburgunder #pinotnoir

Good to go!

Benvenuto Brunello 2017 report: Rethinking Rosso and disciplined Brunello

#benvenutobrunello 2017 @consBrunello #montalcino #brunellodimontalcino #rossodimontalcino

It was a milestone edition of Benvenuto Brunello and also a gathering of symmetrical proportions. Looking back a half century, just after recognition of the D.O.C., it was in 1967 that the consortium was set up as an association of producers, “as a free association between winemakers bent on safeguarding their wine and on accentuating its qualities.” Twenty five years later the Benvenuto concept was conceived and now fifty years later this 2017 and 25th Benvenuto Brunello presented a preview of Annata 2015 Rosso di Montalcino, Annata 2012 Brunello di Montalcino, Riserva 2011, Moscadello and Sant’Antimo. Every year in February the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino organizes Benvenuto Brunello and by my count in 2017 there were 133 producers and 379 wines on hand to taste and evaluate, grouped together on February 17th and 18th in the Chiostro Museo Montalcino.

The vintages on hand offered up a study in contrasts beyond the obvious connotations served by the youth of Rosso Annata contrastive to aged Brunello. So many Mediterranean wine regions reaped huge benefits from the 2015 growing season but I’ve not personally seen such an across the board level of quality from a group of structured wines as I saw in the Rosso Annata. You would have to go back to 2010 to find a vintage with a near-chivalrous level of generosity and as far back as 2001 for its equal. That said I would suggest with extreme prejudice that 2015 Rosso di Montalcino is the vintage to change your mind about its quality and its ability to stand alone. As an entity, the Rosso are produced from grapes farmed explicitly for a purpose and it is this ’15 vintage that can be used to back up that very proposition. Rosso are fashioned to make a young sangiovese distinctive and antithetical to Brunello, but with the resolution to forge ahead with an intrinsic and personal level of structure.

The Brunello vintage at the 2017 Anteprima is the one that growers, producers, marketers and critics will chime in with a wide variance of opinion. There are many ways to look at the 2012 growing season. It is prescribed as a five-star vintage by the Consorzio, putting it on par with the best of the last 20 years, including 2010, 2007, 2006, 2004 and 1997.  Critics remain skeptical and producers seem content to say “we’ll see,” knowing that structure is a guarantee but that fruit may peak early. There is little doubt that fruit quality is prodigious to say the least and that to a wine, these are fine and refined sangiovese. The producers who resisted temptation to make huge wines and the ones who took a step away from the machine will likely be the ones who found the best balance and in turn will have forged the longest aged Brunelli. I for one see 2012 as closer to 2008 and 1998, firm, a little misunderstood in the early days and capable of improving dramatically with five to seven years of age. The fruit just seems to speak this truth.

Buongiorno #montalcino La Fortezza di Montalcino

Montalcino is one of the most iconic Tuscan hilltop villages, a high density designed labyrinth of winding streets with the medieval La Fortezza di Montalcino at the peak and heart of the city. La Fortezza is a monument rich in history and a symbol of the last glorious defence of the Sienese Republic in 1555 against Spanish-Florentine troops. Begun in 1361 to improve the fortifications of the city, the fortress became a symbol of the then dominant Sienese power, however, counterbalanced by the opportunity that was offered to the residents of Montalcino to have Sienese citizenship while delocalised. It was precisely this fact that led to important political, economic and administrative relations between the inhabitants of the two cities. By the time the 16th century came to a close the fortress had lost its military significance. La Fortezza Wine Shop and Wine Bar founded in 1980 by Mario Pianigiani and Marzio Giannelli sits inside the main tower of the fortress.

Montalcino rests at 564 meters above sea level between the valleys of three rivers; Ombre, Asso and Orcia. This island city has for centuries been cut off from major transit roads and subsequently avoided or missed out on the typical economic practices of the surrounding region. So it developed wine and olive oil as its primary industry. The world and Montalcino are all the richer for this fortuitous destiny.

#montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino is referred to as “a very modern and ingenious intuition,” a phrase that so aptly depicts how it has separated itself from other sangiovese producing neighbours, namely Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Only the Brunelli are possessive of a very certain and special sort of sangiovese aromatic liqueur, an amalgamation of deep, dark cherry, fresh leather, earth and flowers that differs from the others. Brunello also carries its own unique type of acidity and a fineness of tannin that speaks to how the grapes develop on the slopes and in the valleys below.

Only 15 per cent of a surface area totalling 24,000 hectares is planted to vines, just under 60 per cent to Brunello, approximately 15 to each Rosso and Sant’Antimo, 1.5 to Moscadello and 10 per cent to other grape varieties. The vineyards are set in a charmed square amphitheatre of geology, with the 1,740m high Mount Amiata to the south acting as protector and climate mitigator. Soils vary but at its most beautiful the decomposition of quatenary rock gives way to marl and albarese. The area is blessed with a Mediterranean climate, thankfully free of frost, great temperature fluctuations, the disease combative frequent presence of wind, mild and full days and in the end long, phenolic developing growing cycles.

Benvenuto Brunello gala dinner

Brunello’s rules call for maximum yields of eight tons per hectare and an obligatory ageing period in wood of two years in oak casks. A further four months (six for Riserva) is required in bottle. Bottling must take place in the production area and the wines can be made available for sale on the first of January in the fifth year following the harvest (sixth for Riserva). Only Bordeaux style bottles are permitted.

Rosso’s rules call for maximum yields of nine tons per hectare, bottling must take place in the production area and the wines can be made available for sale on the first of September of the year following the vintage. Like big brother Brunello, Rosso can only be housed in Bordeaux style bottles.

Moscadello’s yields climb to 10 tons per hectare for both natural and bubbly (five for Late Harvest) made from moscato bianco. The wines may be made available for sale on the first of January of the second year after the harvest, for the Late Harvest type. Sant’Antimo’s yields are set at nine tons per hectare for the Bianco and Rosso and eight for the other reds. It can be produced from all grape varieties recommended and authorized in the province of Siena, with specific limitations for the types with a variety name and for the Vin Santo. Bottling must take place in the province of Siena.

Sommelier service at Benvenuto Brunello

The Cooperative Cellars Biondi-Sant & Co are mentioned in the volume “Vini Tipici Senesi,” published by the chair of agronomy at the Università di Siena in 1933. The cooperative winery Biondi Santi & Co. was established in Montalcino in 1926 by a group of enthusiastic land owners who were also wine producers. They understood the necessity and importance of promoting two of Tuscany’s classic wines, Brunello and  Moscadello from Montalcino. The Brunello di Montalcino style did not emerge until the 1870s, soon after Il Risorgimento (the unification of the Italian regions into a single state). Its evolution was expressly due to the efforts of Ferruccio Biondi-Santi. A soldier in Garibaldi’s army, Biondi-Santi returned home from the campaigns to manage the Fattoria del Greppo estate belonging to his grandfather Clemente Santi. It was here that he developed some state-of-the-art winemaking techniques which would revolutionize wine production in Montalcino and greater Tuscany.

The word we know as Brunello translates loosely to “little dark one”, in reference to the local vernacular name for sangiovese grosso, “fat sangiovese,” the large-berried form of sangiovese which grows in the area. While Brunello di Montalcino and the clonal sangiovese grosso have been symbiotically synonymous for decades, in today’s modern Brunello lexicon it is simply sangiovese that speaks to the grape of the famous wines.

Vancouver’s Michaela Morris, Godello and our amazing sommelier Leia

Montalcino’s reason for breathing, loving and living is to celebrate the wines of its immediate territory and the most noble locally-produced sangiovese has made the history of Brunello while the younger Rosso have taken up the challenge to become the protagonists of the new market.

This report is due and with great thanks to the producers from Montalcino, Patrizio Cencioni, Chairman and President of The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino and Vice Presidents Tommaso Cortonesi, Andrea Machetti and Riccardo Talenti. Benvenuto Brunello is the culminating visit for the larger, week long roadshow of Anteprime di Toscana and so thanks is also afforded to Regione Toscana, Tuscany Wine Consortiums, PromoFirenze and the entire Anteprime di Toscana team. My 88 reviews in total cover 22 Rosso Annata 2015 and 2014, 26 Brunello 2012, 34 Brunello Vigna 2012 and six earlier vintage Vigna and Riserva.

#benvenutobrunello 2017 @consBrunello #brunellodimontalcino #rossodimontalcino

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Rosso Di Montalcino 2015

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Quite delicate and elegant in Rosso from Barbi so perfectly executed to suit the effects of the vintage. A poster child actually, with brightness belied by red fruit and then enough grip to solidify the future. This will drink perfectly consistent from now and to the end of these ‘10s.  Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Podere Brizio Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From warmest of warm southwest sandstone and marl Montalcino vineyards of solid rock and altitude. Marks the old school/new school twain as an undisguised expression and honestly prepares you for more structured Brunello without ever abandoning what Rosso must be. Red fruit, chalky liquidity and some fine tannins. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Capanna Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Capanna’s is a drink as fast as you can sort of Rosso with red tinging to black raspberry red fruit. There is a plum pudding space from the short barrel and such an inflection gifts true blue baby Brunello character. Enjoy this while the older siblings develop some of that formidable 2012 charm. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    @capannamontalcino  #capanna

Castello Romitorio Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.99, WineAlign)

As young, fresh, beautifully whole-bunch startling and come get me by the trunkful as Rosso di Montalcino can really be. Strawberries soaking in their own macerating juices and straight out of the vat lithe tartness and beauty. For every day and just a hint of what tannin will want to be in the bigger, slowly rendered wood-spiced Brunello. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    @WineLoversAgncy  castelloromitorio  wineloversagency   Castello Romitorio  @wineloversagency

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.99, WineAlign)

Firmer than some other Rosso but not in sacrifice of charm or elegance. Depth of berries and even a hint of plum both in aroma and on a silky, pleasurable and meaningful palate. Grown-up is one way of naming it but I prefer to think of Collematoni’s Rosso as in a category of its own, neither Rosso nor Brunello but something to take pleasure without needing any supply from either or. Rosso for next year and five after that. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017  @collemattoni  @StemWineGroup  collemattoni  stemwinegroup  Collemattoni Brunello  @stemwine

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

The advance is a young winemaker’s approach, using fruit from the youngest vines but from the same vineyards used for Brunello production. Clonal selection permits early success from the fourth to fifth leaf for precocious wines off vines so young. Others may use vineyards dedicated to Rosso, so farmed with ulterior motive and expectation, neither better nor worse, but different. The old way was simply a matter in selection of grapes, something young winemakers are abandoning for now one or the other ways of making Rosso. Tommaso Cortonesi’s is luminous and bright within a frame of ascension in reference to the darker cherry sangiovese point spectrum, with three levels of variegated hue and aromatic profile. Char, fennel and fruit. Great structure, agreeable and yes, drinkable now Rosso. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Donatella’s is a beacon at the shore, up on the fortress and statuesque at the central piazza, standing sentinel to draw attention to the 2015 vintage. Rarely will you find this combination of bright and firm, lithe and intense, ripe and in charge. All the attributes of Montalcino sangiovese are ingrained, albeit with a feminine hand, into its bricks and mortar. Perfectly sculpted and executed, with grace and humility.  Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017  @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Fattoi Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Relatively reserved as far as Rosso is concerned, with a darker berry, heavier clay and expressly extracted into juicy palate. Bigger expression that take full advantage of the generous vintage to be sure. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017    @BrunelloImports  #fattoi  brunelloimports  Lucia Fattoi  Brunello Imports Inc.

Gianni Brunelli Rosso Di Montalcino Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $34.00, WineAlign)

Le Chiuse Di Sotto, “the closed below,” is beautiful, full and yet not so generous on the nose (above) in sangiovese pure and simply wanting to give Rosso expressly to the palate. The mouthfeel graces better than most, not wanting for anything more than what it knows and has. Nothing astringent about this firm grip and of a concentration yet elegant in tension. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017  @Noble_Estates  giannibrunelli  noble_estates  @NobleEstates

Il Poggione Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, SAQ 12921974, $25.15, WineAlign)

Refined and expertly executed if on the side where acidity really makes a play for queen in this Rosso. In a matter for when fruit so red, smoky and ripe is up to the balancing task. Another Rosso that just kills it for the vintage. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @IlPoggioneWines  @LiffordON  ilpoggione  liffordgram  @villailpoggione  @liffordwineandspirits

La Fiorita Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Simpler and straightforward for Rosso, with the feel of quickly pressed fruit with little extra time spent waiting for its response. There is this herbal note on the palate and a chalky feel that is floral, like a candied pansy and/or exchanged for/mixed with something dairy, even enzymatic. A bit unusual that needs time to settle in. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted February 2017   @NatalieLFiorita  @natalie_lafiorita  @TWCimports  TheWineCoaches  La Fiorita Wines (Natalie Oliveros)

La Leccaia Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Resides on the roses and ethereal side of Rosso, of lithe and bright fruit, red all the way to the end. The palate is less expressive and somewhat carbonic, pulsating and pushing its way to the back. Deferential in ways not tasted yet. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @TWCimports  TheWineCoaches

La Togata Rosso Di Montalcino Carillon 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

If an imagining of the 2015 Brunello vintage can be foretold in the eyes, nose and mouth of a Rosso, La Torgata’s Carillon, “a group of small bells,” may just be the oracle. Sweet fruit in red cherry, ripe plum and then the dusting of fennel pollen will turn this to flow fluidly over river stones. So bright, light and pleasant. Could drink this with my pasta every night, no matter the preparation. Rosso like this is perfect, come questo è perfetto, for right now. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017    #latogata  Brunello La Togata

La Togata Rosso Di Montalcino La Togata 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

La Togata is firmer than the estate’s Carillon and quite certainly taken from lower, deeper and heavier clay. La Torgata also confirms a pleasing vintage to come for Brunello. Fruit is just that much darker and with more grip and welling tension. Deep earthy charity all over the palate leads to great tang on the finish where the tannin thankfully arrests and relents. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    #latogata  Brunello La Togata

Lazzeretti Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Very modern and expressive. Unexpected but bright and wonderfully fanciful. Fantasy Rosso to imagine ways you had not before. A bit of a wild, natural child. Would look forward to watching this develop over the course of an hour or two. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @ViniLazzeretti  @ViniLazzeretti

Maté Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Maté’s is darker, richer and more productive on track with dead aim to please. Got graphite in the pencil and plenty of savour.  Spice is at the top in between and down below. Sultry really, hot and bothered. Good long finish. Drink 2017-2019.   Tasted February 2017  @MateWinery  mate_winery  Candace Máté  @MateWine

Scopetone Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Scopetone’s Rosso is quite perfumed, nimble and of a nose that thinks potpourri. Here Rosso again needs the palate to flesh and firm up the overall package. Turns just a hair musty and dusty in that respect but does proper work, for the house and for ’15. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    #scopetone

Tiezzi Rosso Di Montalcino Poggio Cerrino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Poggio Cerrino certainly acts on the nose more like the reputedly bigger Brunello so this is the provider of such a style. As a Rosso this is the most liqueur focussed and so defines their corner of the 2015 market, of which the school is older and the tone slightly volatile, not to mention deep in extraction. Deeply entrenched in tradition with plenty of tannin, including some verdant strands. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @BrunelloTiezzi  brunellotiezzi  Brunello Tiezzi

Ventolaio Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

More than just rustic and charming, here carefully considered to present a modern expression of sangiovese and what it amounts to is a refined, purposed and most excellent expression. There is this anaerobic, aerified inhalant impression that really takes away from expression so think about waiting a year to let the two fronts come together for a more perfect storm. Nothing precious about such a Rosso, only the sort of pure sangiovese roots laid down for success. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2017    #ventolaio  @Ventolaio

Rosso ’15 highlights from #benvenutobrunello 2017 @consBrunello #latogata #carillon #castellodiromitorio #collemattoni #giannibrunelli #donatellacinellicolombini #ventolaio

Rosso Di Montalcino 2014

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino V. V. 2014, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

A more than beautiful rendition from 2014, regal and rewarding. Elegant and firm to nose, not so perfumed and holding back a touch, with thanks to the Montalcino old vines compression. Firm is the operative, elongation the plan. A mineral-focused sangiovese with years of persistence lay ahead. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino Petroso 2014, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Petroso is much more beautiful and even on the edge of ethereal as compared to the old vines Rosso. This has bright red fruit and a lightness of Rosso character. Really perfumed, not so much, exactly or specifically fruit but also the mineral, wood and plenty of spices. Love the cross-section of firm, tangy and grippy. This just goes, flows and keeps flowing. Very long and definitive, of vintage and certainly, ostensible, place. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Il Marroneto Rosso Di Montalcino 2014, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

It is a pleasure to discover the beautifully rendered combination and complimentary connection between the bright and the structured in a best of both colliding worlds Rosso. Some weight also lends credible Brunello regional character, followed by a mouthfeel silky, fluid and in the end, full of tension and grip. It’s a veritable roller-coaster sangiovese ride, slowly climbing the hill to the crest and pausing, as if in a dream, without going over the edge. Fantasy and edging in Rosso di Montalcino. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @IlMarroneto  #ilMarroneto  @BrunelloIlMarroneto

Eyes on annata 2012 @consBrunello #brunellodimontalcino #benvenutobrunello 2017 #montalcino #toscana

Brunello Di Montalcino 2012

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (154609, $54.00, WineAlign)

A solidified crust of earth and red fruit intertwine in Argiano’s 2012, a Brunello that resides on the firmer as opposed to brighter side of the 2012 vintage. Argiano will always deliver the goods, in quality fruit, from important terroir and with the building blocks to carry it for 10 to 15 years. The palate brings viscosity, unctuousness and more than enough finishing chocolate ganache. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @Argianowinery  @Noble_Estates  cantina_argiano  noble_estates  @argiano  @NobleEstates

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (928028, $53.95, WineAlign)

Barbi accomplishes an Annata Brunello just haste in 2012, taking expressly written sangiovese red fruit and pushing it to the limits of its natural tendencies, in hue and expression. I would have to say that consistency from this house is an absolute guarantee and that its style trumps vintage as much as any other. This is simply more Barbi than 2-12. That’s all there is to it. Tannins are firm, acidity is strong and fruit is up to the 15 year task. Nothing time sensitive about it and its timeless structure cements the absolution. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Brizio’s is quite fresh for Brunello in a style that won’t knock you down, from marl and galestro soils expressive of plum fruit and non-quelling oak. The warm southwest Montalcino corner rolls out a convection of buterred savoury pastry as though this were like Champagne in a sangiovese, Brunello style. Red velvet brioche and gingery exoticism from Montalcino with the fineness of tannin. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted February 2017  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 236356, $69.99, WineAlign)

Take a deep breath and take this beautiful 2012 Castello Romitorio in, full of the purest sangiovese, florals and a moist crust of the earth. Seamless, already full of clean and open window clarity and ultimately beautiful. There are no astringent moments of heavy, barrel chested wood huffs or puffs. This Brunello is traditionally pure while at the same time clean as a whistling sangiovese. Nothing finer or more enjoyable to drink, without any cure or a care. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted February 2017    @WineLoversAgncy  castelloromitorio  wineloversagency   Castello Romitorio  @wineloversagency

Castiglion del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (956391, $59.95, WineAlign)

This is the press train to get to the 2012 station, of the right and correct fruit but with the sense to pull in on time. You do not have to wait for Bosco to fight its way through the Brunello crowd. The journey is already complete so if you need a drink me now Brunello this is your train. The fruit darkens and fleshes just in the time it travels from glass to mouth, with temporal, juicy acidity and easy tannin. Finishes with a shot of fine espresso.  Drink 2017-2021. Tasted February 2017    @LiffordON  castigliondelbosco  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

Cava d’Onice Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Brunello 2012 in the hands of Cava d’Onice is blessed of a most heady and pretty perfume in a decidly gregarious expression, though with no danger of inching over the strada. Really tests the limits of fruit and wood and comes out clean and fresh, with much liquid ruby, chalky and spiced addendum. It’s the sangiovese equivalent of old school charm in modernist, retro clothing. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @cavadonice  azienda_cavadonice  @cavadonice

Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (306852, $49.95, WineAlign)

Typically Col D’orcia for Brunello, firm, grippy and designed with angles, lines and box vector precision. Fruit is not at once ready and willing to tell a story because tannins are on top and suppress the basket down. I will admit that the vintage is more relenting than many, not quite 2007 mind you but certainly not a factor of 2008. This normale will need three years to open up before it really begins to celebrate its fruit and then offer evolving subtleties for five to seven after that. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @Coldorcia  @DionysusWines  coldorcia  dionysuswines  @coldorcia.brunello  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $61.99, WineAlign)

Gorgeous red fruit as generous and dare it be said, magnanimous as it gets. Collematoni is a fruit machine, but also a mineral maker and a long-distance, slow-evolutionary walker. The calcareous-clay impression (from San Angelo in Colle on the southern hill of Montalcino) leaves a lasting imprint on your Brunello soul. This carries fine millefoglie layers of fruit, woven in lattice and with alternative material from that fruit, of ground stone, acidity and sweet, fine-grainy tannin. No shards, no cruising and no need for rehydration. Carries it all in one bag, or bottle. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted February 2017  @collemattoni  @StemWineGroup  collemattoni  stemwinegroup  Collemattoni Brunello  @stemwine

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.95, WineAlign)

La Mannella, meaning the manna from heaven is a five hectare, five block vineyard in surround of the winery at the centre of the Cortonesi universe. A vineyard that is used exclusively for the production of the estate’s Rosso and La Mannella Brunelli. La Mannella (as opposed to I Poggiarelli) is a single block Brunello but not a “single-vineyard,” planted in 1985 and 1998 in a relative Montalcino colder northern clime. This emits and represents the epitome for floral sangiovese, a bouquet that speaks to violets and elegant, light purple fruit. The penetrability and explicability of purlieu is an act of focus and the cynosure of assessment. Brunello should be exacting, something you get and it must define itself in clear sangiovese-speak. Large slavonian oak for 36 months maintains and celebrates the perfume. The wood shows up late, in white peppery spice and that just have to lay on your tongue and swallow with sublime delight, liquid chalky finish. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (431718, $58.00, WineAlign)

Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s ’12 presents a step up in character provided by the soil in her most masculine expression, if there is indeed such thing from this house. More density, seemingly lower-slope and deeper soil inflection comes replete with a handsome terroir-funky feeling. The fruit is currently secondary and not the most obvious for 2012 as a whole, though it is for the house. The palate is typically rendered by Donatella, creamy and fluid, liquid mineral ruby and carried by a fineness of tannin all the way to the finish. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Fuligni Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (245225, $61.95, WineAlign)

Fuligni’s is a fine and refined sangiovese and quite perfect for and from the 2012 vintage. Quite an inhalant at first, savoury, strong and then turning tannic, properly rigid and wood-tough on the chalky and chocolatey palate. It’s not quite how it once in delivery a more traditional statement, now more streamlined, internationally understandable, bigger, grander and in search of suits around the table at a steakhouse. Will work for Tomahawks. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017     @HalpernWine  Fuligni  halpernwine  @halpernwine

Gianni Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.00, WineAlign)

The Brunello from Chiuse Di Sotto is lovely in that it enters with that classic sangiovese purity, namely fruit but with the vineyard stowed comfortably in its iron-rich pocket. This strikes as perhaps schisty (or the Montalcino equivalent) Brunello, with a slight hematic and ferric aromatic complement. Really full, rich and acidity-laced palate is followed by a grand finale from which you wished you’d have been afforded an additional four years to make the assessment. Alas, that’s not how this works. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2017.  @Noble_Estates  giannibrunelli  noble_estates  @NobleEstates

Il Grappolo Brunello Di Montalcino Sassocheto 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The 2012 Brunello vintage is taken to an extreme side in Sassocheto’s Il Grappolo, with very firm and vacuumed aromatics shut and locked in so very tight. The depths are occupied by cherries drying, losing their body weight and settling into a floor of forest leaves and a future occupied by mushroom and truffle. The old-school, fine leathery and old barrel tonic bequeathes much hope for the mouthfeel and it gives every reason to confirm the possibilities. The world as we have known it here in Brunello sits right in this glass. It’s both comforting and filled with ancient wonder. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @GrappoloFortius   #ilgrappolo  @IlGrappoloFortiusMontalcino

Il Marroneto Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

High on the red liqueur but not equally so with high-octane tones, this is more accessible than you might think. It’s really big on its fruit, both on the nose and the palate. Quite classic in every respect and wholly respectful to the vintage. Bright and firm, direct and down to earth. Plenty of new wood will send this deep into the next decade. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @IlMarroneto  #ilMarroneto  @BrunelloIlMarroneto

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $62.50, WineAlign)

Like the 2015 Rosso the house style really concentrates fruit and soil, here into a solidly constructed, carefully considered architectural Brunello from the ground’s foundation all the way up. Aromas and texture act argilo-calcaire in origin, deep, humid and alive. The mouthfeel is fuller than many in 2012, tasted here in 2017, full of liquid chalk, 80 per cent cacao and really fine if currently intrusive tannin. Will need time, this grippy 2012. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @IlPoggioneWines  @LiffordON  ilpoggione  liffordgram  @villailpoggione  @liffordwineandspirits

Fattoria La Leccaia Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (121905, $57.95, WineAlign)

La Lecciaia’s 2012 continues the house roll with a fourth straight proverbial, essential and impressive Brunello. As much as any this is a true, red-blooded 2012 and after tasting near 100 samples it really stands out as exemplary and respectful to the vintage. There is this rustic but very pure curative quality in the way such wines remember everything that came before without pausing to crawl forward into the future. This drinks as it always will, with clean and fiery temper alongside flesh and freshness. Lovely example of 2012 that will age really well. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @TWCimports  TheWineCoaches

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $50.00, WineAlign)

Le Ragnaie’s ’12 is reductive and terroir-driven, the combative combination rendering this Brunello reserved and shy. There is a modicum of freshness from the fruit but also some dried character, likely a cause and effect created by its aggressive tannins. I like the way it switches gears to the palate with no break or change of pace and how it reaches deep into the well for more fruit and tannin. Several years will be needed to scale the wall, pry open the cracks and spill out the charm. Three at least. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Mocali Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (64956, $44.95, WineAlign)

Highly aromatic but also warm, the alcohol on this Mocali seems elevated to the higher end of the 2012 scale. For this reason the fruit succumbs to it and the tannin. There is plenty of stuffing and modern styling to keep Mocali’s sangiovese afloat so that it may glide well into the next century and reveal a Brunello charm from Montalcino roots. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017    @LiffordON  #mocaliwine  liffordgram  Mocali Azienda Mocali  @liffordwineandspirits

Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (651141, $62.95, WineAlign)

A perfectly perfumed Pian Delle Vigne from 2012 is vintage-relegated and vintage-captured. You need to appreciate how the Antinori team has kept the handling and the sheathing to a comfortable minimum, allowing fruit and collection of place to shine. Well made Brunello for 10 years easy. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWine  #piandellevigne  halpernwine  @MarchesiAntinori  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.00, WineAlign)

Warm and in full dispensation of all that 2012 has on offer, the fruit is at once bright and then deepens, in hue and aroma, by extraction. There is this fennel to liquorice scent that isn’t so very 2012 but that extra bit of personality is Poggio Antico’s calling card. The mouthfeel is one of the better in this Benvenuto Brunello line-up, cool, sapid and elastic. Wild cherries are all over the tannic finish. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  tenutadelpoggioantico halpernwine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino Altero 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 11300367, $90.50, WineAlign)

Altero might be considered in all of its possible meanings; elevato, nobile, dignitato. Lofty, noble and dignified. It provides a step up in extraction, firm tannic grip and a blessedly variegated aromatic personality built on pure sangiovese perfume. This really is a clean and fine, structured and clearly alterarsi (alternative) Poggio Antico expression, if more than obviously transparently defined Brunello di Montalcino. The level of refinement is felt in shivers, palpable and loaded with contentment gifted Brunello terms. Modernity is not so much a stylistic choice as much as it is necessity. Drink this comfortably for 20 years but not into the next dark ages. Drink 2018-2035.  Tasted February 2017  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  tenutadelpoggioantico halpernwine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (337774, $180.00, WineAlign)

The present and the future are only bright coming from the heady and purposeful red fruit in the Poggio di Sotto glass. This is pure, clear and distinctly 2012, so very well made and quite elegant. I’m not sure what more you could ask from the vintage in a Brunello prepped to drink beginning of next year and for five equally lustrous more. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017    #poggiodisotto  Poggio di Sotto

Rodolfo Cosimi Brunello Di Montalcino Il Poggiolo 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The “little knolls” comes with a whiff of old hides, barrel cellar walls and already a note of forest mushroom so the first thought is certainly placed back into another time. The palate is so welling with liqueur, acidity, tannin and endless possibility. There is grip but not too much and while this lingers it does so with waning grit and grip. So in the end, modernity is part of the plan and in what is ostensibly a big, sumptuous mouthful of sangiovese. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @ilmioBrunello  il_poggiolo  @ilpoggiolomontalcino

Rodolfo Cosimi Brunello Di Montalcino Il Poggiolo Bionsega “Lifestyle” 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Il Poggiolo’s Bionsega is a very amenable sangiovese, ready to drink in the short term while the others bide their developing and softening time. The “Lifestyle” moniker will clearly be written in Brunello stone for a group of imbibers who want the label without the anxiety. This will indeed offer them immediate pleasure and gratification if they can afford the money and the necessary if unavoidable cerebral time. But to be honest at the end of the glass the good and sincere Bionsega is not so out there so drink up and enjoy. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @ilmioBrunello  il_poggiolo  @ilpoggiolomontalcino

Rodolfo Cosimi Brunello Di Montalcino Il Poggiolo Terra Rossa 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Terra Rossa soil is a fascinating thread, connecting disparate wine regions by soil, from Coonawarra to Chianti Classico and here into Montalcino. The territory’s red soil sangiovese delivers distinct purity and clarity earlier than the “normale” from Il Poggiolo. This Brunello is bright, cheery and full of ripe red cherry. Just a touch of grippy tannin comes swift but the impression is more tang from that soil and how the wine must be made from there. An earlier drinking Brunello to be sure and quite progressive in style. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @ilmioBrunello  il_poggiolo  @ilpoggiolomontalcino

Scopetone Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Scopetone is higher in tone and alcohol warmth but balanced by top quality and the clarity of fruit. Though the vintage does not necessarily bring such a fractive sort of behaviour the Scopetone sections itself into fruit, acidity and tannin, after it has stopped acting so bloody reductive. The hematic and ferric aspects mix with burgeoning acidity and a return of that exceptional fruit. This will live so very long and as such it’s deferential attitude to the vintage is easily forgiven. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted February 2017    #scopetone

Brunello Di Montalcino 2012 (Vigna)

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino Montosoli 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 10221683, $104.50, WineAlign)

In its present state Montesoli is a beast. There, I’ve said it. Shut tight, chains securely in place, reduction the retaining wall to keep predators out and so good luck on unearthing any early secrets. You know there is classic and earthy red fruit hiding but you can’t quite feel it. The palate is chewy, crunchy, propitiously and indubitibly enriched. This is a massive Brunello with underlying elegance and charm but ultimately all-powerful. Drink 2021-2037.  Tasted February 2017    @rogcowines  #altesino  rogersandcompanywines  Winery/Vineyard  @rogcowines

Castello Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $69.95, WineAlign)

As expected a rich, preserved and developed liqueur from Poggio Alle Mura but what is exceptional is the lesser or lack of barrel on both the nose and the palate at such a young stage. This is the most red-fruit reasoned PAM I have ever tasted and I can only say that Banfi has listened to the vintage and the land with great exception and care. The chocolate and the viscosity are left behind so that purity and traditional (or is it forward-thinking) tenets of sangiovese can take centre stage. Bravo. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @CastelloBanfi  @AuthenticWineON  castellobanfi_ilborgo  awsmwest  @CastelloBanfi  @awsmon

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Del Fiore 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 10217300, $64.75, WineAlign)

Barbi has also listened to the wind and vintage ear worms sung from their iconic, 16th century vineyard known as Vigna del Fiore. Red fruit of clarity and purity reigns while acidity is at its finest for the house. The rusticity of cherry, leather and roasted beets combine for full gastronomic effect and lead into a rather sumptuous and mouth coating texture for the palate. This scales the wall and retreats again to stay in the game in which you can play now (well, soon), then repeatedly, at consistent increments, later and later. VdeF from Barbi is a best of both worlds Brunello for both consumer and collector. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino Assunto 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (206854, $36.95, WineAlign)

Bellaria’s Assunto is funky and truffle earthy, etched and forged from and for the past. Red citrus concentrate and wild thyme are further scents gotten and then such tart compression on the palate. Hard acidity and desperate tannin take this straight down the line. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017

Camigliano Brunello Di Montalcino Paesaggio Inatteso 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Camigliano’s sangiovese is rather reductive and ornery at this stage, perhaps specific to the Paesaggio Inatteso Vigna bottling. It is a wine that will not give up easy. The dusty rustic fruit and heady to woodsy aromas are surely meant to spread some kind of traditional word but it’s hard to get past the fortress gates. Quite out of touch with fruit it’s hard to imagine that this will not develop much more charm anytime soon. The barrel is very strong on the flavours so added up you get what you got. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February 2017

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino La Casa 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $69.95, WineAlign)

Caparzo’s Vigna La Casa is quite rich and more approachable than many at such an early stage with the home vineyard ready to provide both the beauty and the stuffing almost before you realize you can sit down with a bottle to enjoy. It is refreshing to take a Vigna-designate bottle and be offered the immediacy of fruit though La Casa is more than capable with structure to take it through a five year primary stage. Some interest will develop after that but these early years will be the best. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @CaparzoWines  @TheCaseForWine  #caparzowinery  

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino Filo di Sesta 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A perfume of fine spun sweet red fruit fills the glass and prepares you for what can only be a case of smitten by love in sangiovese. The tree fruit is ripe and falls into the hand almost before it is picked. The traditions of the Brunelli are deeply entrenched into the genetics of such a wine and onto the palate we go with more sweet acidity-laced and tannin-gripped fruit. Quite seamless and propitiously endowed with a quiet and highly effective linger. Not as tough as many and yet indicative of the vintage without needing to scream for to be heard. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017    @WineLoversAgncy  castelloromitorio  wineloversagency   Castello Romitorio  @wineloversagency

Castiglion del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino Campo Del Drago 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 10708424, $63.25, WineAlign)

A divergence from the normale comes from the dragon, with an increased level of aromatic airiness and simultaneous inhalant, like gastronomy coming from the kitchen of demi-glacé, herbs and roasting meats. Such culinary wafts are perfect for preparing the palate and the crunchy, chewy and marbled work is a reminder that salty protein (I’m really thinking fresh Tagliatelle and wild boar) is the focus in handling such sangiovese. The grip on the finish indicates a long life ahead. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted February 2017    @LiffordON  castigliondelbosco  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

Cava d’Onice Brunello Di Montalcino Colombaio 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Cava D’Onice’s Colmbaiao delivers high quality red fruit antics form the aromatic front in cloud-burst vitality from what is nothing but a striking expression of sangiovese. Expertly straddles the line between acidity-laced, sour-edged and ripe from extracted excitability. Bright, fresh and full of spirit. Sweet viscous purity of palate fruit, a bit of roll-up and then such round acidity. Ben preparato e qualificato. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017  @cavadonice  azienda_cavadonice  @cavadonice

Celestino Pecci Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Al Carro 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The wagon (or perhaps, chariot) “Al Carro” delivers a single-vineyard’s increased level of aromatic liqueur, reductive as if by concentrate and is the first to really give off that feeling of cherries seeping in their own syrupy liquid. Such an oozing coulis of sangiovese is what we have come to expect from Brunello though I don’t think it typical of the 2012 vintage. What it says is lower elevation fruit, likely from a warmer Montalcino spot and not quite so efficiently managed to stay cool, elegant and alive. It is delicious in current state but without sufficient grip and tannin structure not necessarily built for the long haul. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017     celestinopecci  Celestino Pecci

Citille Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Poggio Ronconi 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (187955, $49.00, WineAlign)

This single-vineyard Poggio Roncioni exhibits quite a bit of reduction and the warmth wells deeply on the nose with notes that bring some pine forest and cypress into the mix. Really layered and also firm, though decidly extracted and sitting cross-legged on the palate with some of that bitter red citrus pith and slightly astringent tannin. Solid if hard-working Brunello. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017    #citilledisopra

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

This is Cortonesi’s single-vineyard sangiovese from the warmer, southern part of Montalcino at 420m of elevation. Expectation allows for deeper, and darker yet the display comes without the La Mannella block crimson and cimmerian variegation, perhaps instead more like the single-brushstroke, dark side of dusk angle created by a fuzzy, warm blend of fiery colours. More Galestro soil influence here as opposed to clay at La Mannella and two years in part new French tonneaux followed by stainless steel vats. A deferential élevage to the one exercised with La Mannella and one to encourage depth and structure without too much power. Classic, modern, elegant and an apple to La Mannella’s orange. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Prime Donne 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy ($69.95, WineAlign)

With a nod to an all female produced Brunello, Donatella Le Cinelli Colombini’s Casato Prime Donne vineyards specific Brunello is rich, traditional, firm, seamless and structured. Really fine. Exceptional purity from red fruit and an ideally calculated transference of rusticity gives it that supplicated balance, from what was and going forward must be. There is this cooler site and climate-controlled type of phenolic fruit ripeness managed for a struck accord that will see this age gracefully for two decades. In a vintage that in many ways was predicated on a called for requiem of combined blocks and sites this is a true blocks of specific vineyards success. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted February 2017  @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino Valocchio 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $84.69, WineAlign)

The four vineyard Valocchio is Fanti’s Vigna-designate Brunello, a massive sangiovese speaking for four blocks; Vigna Bellavista, Vigna Sassone, Vigna Casabandi and Vigna Macchiarelle Nuova. This strikes as hailing and indeed fact checking tells it does come from a south-east exposed warm spot with some density in the soil. The red fruit is deeply submerged in earthy-rich demi-glacé. There is a mild-mannered personality of volatility on the nose so some old-school thoughts creep in though I would not call this overly traditional Brunello. It is not hard to see past the microbes and to dig deeper into the concentration and grains of ropey acidity meeting tannin to clamber over the ever intense finish. Huge Brunello. Too much for now and in great need of a calming slumber. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017 @tenutafanti  @LeSommelierWine  tenuta_fanti  lesommelierwine  Elisa Fanti  @LeSommelierWine

Il Marroneto Brunello Di Montalcino Madonna delle Grazie 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Though certainly concentrated and likely from a warmish location the clarity on the nose and obvious purity of fruit renders this Madonna delle Grazie a great success. Cherries never smelled so fine and the palate that follows brings the same sort of brightness with thanks to equal and supportive acidity. When the fruit is finished occupying all your time you can expect those sweet but persistently chalky and tight-grained tannins. Drink 2019-2031. Tasted February 2017  @IlMarroneto  #ilMarroneto  @BrunelloIlMarroneto

La Fornace Brunello Di Montalcino Origini 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

La Fornace’s Vigna Origini is reductive and volatile so exercise as much patience as you can before passing judgement on the origins and path forward of this Brunello. Keen herbal and savoury aromas come clean, along with tart red citrus and a zest of grapefruit. This is really steeped somewhere in the pretty deep distant past and at present acts with the sort of character that lacks the fruit density to keep up with today’s forward thinking Brunelli. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017

La Fortuna Brunello Di Montalcino Giobi 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

La Fortuna’s Giobi is much more approachable and gifts sweet perfume in 180 degree about face opposition to the previously tasted La Fornace Origini. The fruit’s warmer location has granted better possibility in conjunction with the older-stylistic and what comes from Giobi is more concentration and focus. Though a knowing nod comes from current character it’s not quite ready now and the future will offer further personality qualified as copacetic and correct. As for and from 2012 and relative to Brunello as a whole, this sangiovese is still quite present. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017 #tenutalafortuna  @lafortunaaziendaagricola

Fattoria La Leccaia Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Manapetra 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (185009, $59.95, WineAlign)

La Lecciaia’s Vigna Manapetra delivers a fair bit of welcoming Montalcino demure and the lithely floral aromas are the entry-point for this pulchritudinous sangiovese. Manapetra is a wine that just seems to jest and tease what is to eventually come. The feminine rapport is a lovely side-track to the ripe vintage away from the producer who failed to manage the duality of ripeness and over-bearing tannin. The presence, precision and clarity here edges forward and nears the divine. One of the best so far. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2017  @TWCimports  TheWineCoaches

Fattoria La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino Ciliegio 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Il Ciliegio brings the best of the 2012 vintage to light and here we have come into the depth and elegance of what the most modern of Brunello can and really have to be. The fruit is ripe and I imagine the winemaker walking the vineyards every day coming into and at harvest time, eating grapes, chewing on seeds, waiting for that optimum combination of tannin resolution and crunch. This found the sweet spot. Elegance, purity, precision, focus, organically divined and from the most obvious of terrific terroir. Drink 2019-2039.  Tasted February 2017  @fattorialamagia  lamagiamontalcino  @lamagiamontalcino

Cantina Leonardo Da Vinci Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Sweet, sour, salty and earthy fruit make a total sangiovese play for well rounded pay dirt in the Da Vinci Brunello and yet this is expertly high-toned and succinct in edgy ways. There is some flesh and unctuous palate activity so the cumulative is deemed more than respectable in a Brunello next door kind of way.. Finishes with chocolate shavings and dusty espresso. For best results drink this in the early stages. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @CantineLeonardo  cantineleonardodavinci  @CantineLeonardoDaVinci

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino V. V. 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

I sense an increase in alcohol from the old vines and perhaps this is completely necessary because of what they do in terms of compression and density. As a rule I am not finding high alcohol in 2012 even as I do find richness and ripeness that is not always easy to manage. These old vines are not a problem for the latter but the heat on the nose mutes the fruit and is ill prepared to set up the palate for acidity and tannin management. A bit rustic and old-school and certainly right for fans of the style. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino Fornace 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Le Ragnaie’s Fornace (the furnace) is riper than the old vines but lower in warmth, and I suspect, alcohol. Also prevalent on the nose is some reduction, along with more obvious wood than many. The intent here is clearly for size so more than a few years will be needed to settle the heavy door on its hinges and nearly immoveable parts. The reduction will dissipate in a few and the tannins should begin to relent in two more. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Mastrojanni Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Loreto 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $64.95, WineAlign)

Mastrojanni’s Vigna Loreto takes an express route through vintage ripeness to some jam and warmth in the nose though the fruit is really quite pure and rendered with clarity. The mouthfeel is round and fulfilling, markedly ripe again with pure fruit though not in the same kind of jam that seemed first apparent on the nose. To say this is exemplary for 2012 would be a gross understatement. Tannins are well-managed to package up the fruit and acidity in solid structure. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @MastrojanniWine  @MajesticWineInc  #mastrojanni  radalinke  majesticwinesinc  @MastrojanniWine  @majesticwinecellars

Ridolfi Brunello Di Montalcino Mercatale 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Some traditional rendering comes clean from the start with rich liqueur, those classic cherries and even some nebbiolo-like tar and roses. Continues the thread and coats the tongue with sour-sharp acids followed by anxiety styled tannin. I suspect the vintage posed stiff challenges to the house style and though the fruit will wane this will show its best after a few further years in bottle. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2017  Societa’ Agricola Ridolfi srl

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino Helichrysum 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Depth and reserve make cause to wonder what will be though it is the combination of breaching ripeness and warmth that seem to dominate the internal, in the present moment’s discussion. Richness of fruit is undeniable, from red clay depths and the advancing severity of tannin make this a formidable and virtually irreproachable ’12. Five undisturbed years lay ahead for this Helichrysum sangiovese from San Polino and one should hope the fruit will outlast the bitter chocolate, grainy tannin and chalky sensibility. Probability, recent track record and a heavy hunch say this will work out just fine. Plain and simple, put this away. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @SanPolinoVino  @TheLivingVine  #sanpolino  thelivingvine  #SanPolinoBrunello  The Living Vine inc.

Fattoria Scopone Brunello Di Montalcino L’Olivare 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The amount of fennel and amaretti cookie on the plateau of aromatics is joined by really traditional but such a fine inhalant of Brunello specific-sangiovese. This L’Olivare vigna-designate from Scopone carries all the necessary attributes; cherry, leather, fine-distilled syrup, roses, fennel again and always a seamless integration of it all. As classic as classic gets, all moving parts within reason and decades of future in its proverbial ancient but timeless pocket. You know where you are. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2017  

Azienda Di Franci Franca Brunello Di Montalcino Tassi Di Franci Franca Selezione 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Plenty of vacuuming liquor is sucked up into the bubble supported over the thinner air of this sangiovese. Warm to fiery fruit is traditionally rendered and fully accountable for its actions. There is just a touch of fungi and forest floor on the umami-configured nose so complexity is in despite the heat and the volatility. The palate offers some sweetness of fruit and a first hint of advancing times. Drink this traditional Brunello early with a rare bisteca and enjoy the fine ganache on the finish. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  

Azienda Di Franci Franca Brunello Di Montalcino Tassi Di Franci Franca Selezione Franci 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A small production of this Brunello out of Castelnuovo dell’Abate develops a deeper clay-influenced and markedly darker black cherry-raspberry fruit rendered sangiovese. This Tassi Di Franci Franca Selezione Franci is distinctly polar to Tassi’s Franci Franca normale. As a result the wood is more on top while the acidity and tannin wait, but only for a few moments, before attacking with fervour. So much chocolate swaths the palate with that fine-grainy brushstroke of tannin. This selezione is a big wine that needs a few years to back down. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2017  

Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello Di Montalcino P.56 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Tenuta Buon Tempo’s plot specific p. 56 is quite full-throttle on the nose but a bit reserved or rather locked in within that aromatic structure, as if it needs some sort of catalyst to find its way out of the shell. What I reach for is fruit but I get a mineral streak first, something almost calcari but certainly argilo in origin. This must be from a higher location as it is cool-tempered and very refined. The palate is cool again, not so much herbal as it is swelling with the holy trinity of fruit, acidity and tannin. Were the acidity just a touch elevated I think this would travel over mountains, rivers and valleys to decades ahead. It’s just that close but will still commit to being a 15-20 year wine. Drink 2021-2036.  Tasted February 2017    tenutabuontempo  @TenutaBuonTempo  Carpe Vinum

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Doria 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Silvio Nardi’s Poggia Doria is fruit forward for Brunello with a wild cherry to black cherry lineage, but also some fragola di bosco. The ripeness is pushed to the limit for 2012 and this continues onto the very rich and sumptuously endowed palate. There is plenty of chocolate and tongue climbing acidity on that smothered palate. Drink this early and often. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2017  @TenuteNardi  @MajesticWineInc  tenutenardi  majesticwinesinc  @tenutenardi  @majesticwinecellars

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino Vigneto Manachiara 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $80.00, WineAlign)

In opposition to the Poggio Doria, Nardi’s second Vigna delivers a complete about face turn around to see the other side of the moon, this time the landscape where Brunello is found in the Manachiara. If at first it seems a bit rendered in stencilled acetone keep drifting into its fine liqueur and patiently wait out the transformation. It deepens, condenses and then breathes. This is a fine-grained, tight coiling, re-coiling and fanning out across the moonscape sangiovese. The wood is very much in charge, with baking spices and cool, sapid and savoury edges. It needs time. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2017  @TenuteNardi  @MajesticWineInc  tenutenardi  majesticwinesinc  @tenutenardi  @majesticwinecellars

Tiezzi Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Soccorso 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Funky and markedly reductive young Brunello is easy to discount as problematic but something tells me to hang in there with Tiezzi’s Soccorso. The tension is palpable and the fruit suffocating behind the microbial wall of fame. Traditional can go either way; southerly sour or northerly nettled. This will mark the twain but the fruit will never be the focus of attention. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @BrunelloTiezzi  brunellotiezzi  Brunello Tiezzi

La Togata Brunello Di Montalcino La Togata Dei Togati 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A quite firm and traditionally challenged Brunello here from Togata cries for patience before it has even slipped from the glass into your mouth. Reserved to unrelenting at least aromatically, when you have a taste you are reminded that history, tradition and ancient sensibility must be apart of the future. The old large botti have established a void for which this sangiovese to hang and suspend so that it will be reluctant in its early bottle years. With time it will release its flesh and charm from out of a carefully crafted and designed complex system of architecture. Drink 2020-2034.  Tasted February 2017    #latogata  Brunello La Togata

Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello Di Montalcino Pomona 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

A new era of sweet Brunello fruit is borne from Poggio Salvi’s Pomona, one that is hard to describe but here goes. It’s like a cross between pink roses, sweet ruby grapefruit and wild saskatoon berry, or the Tuscan equivalent. The newfangled aromatics aside this is also older school than expected and yet is graced with incredibly fine tannins and very purposed acidity. More palate fruit would elevate the game but this should gain some flesh and slowly unwind for 10 to 12 years. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017    @HalpernWine  #villapoggiosalvi  halpernwine  Winery/Vineyard  @halpernwine

Brunello Di Montalcino 2011 (Vigna)

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

Looking rearward into the recent past what comes into near focus is the combination of liqueur and firmness, a handful for sure and yet it seems that time (even just an extra year or two in bottle) brings out that specific Cortonesi perfume. The tang and richness of concentrated acidity really elevates at this stage so that tannin begin its resultion so young and impressively so. This is not the big, bad Brunello but the one to make enjoyment haste. The length is exceptional with pretty tonic and bitter moments that pop in and out. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Brunello Di Montalcino 2008 (Vigna)

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2008, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

If the argument was ever made to sway in the “yes it was and is” direction, this Cortonesi example from the exceptional vintage leads the parade with aromatics that go exotic and then return domestic. A spirit of the east, of bougainvillea and hibiscus plus a Montalcino gustatory aromatic spice. Then that return to fennel, a walk through flora Montalcino brush and sweet French tonneau spice. The liquorice is one bred out of aromatic acidity, like a fine chalky dusting of red crimson and ochre to purple powder on a plate next to a perfect charred slice of beef. Elegant sangiovese cuisine in a glass, deconstructed and all obvious in their parts but when you taste you pause and it all comes together. The flavours mingle and weave, of cherries and fruit leather, more mellowed spice, still lingering fresh, persistent and remarkably bright. Southern vineyard be damned, this is a cool, elegant and lithe drop. Harkens back to a mind’s eye and nose in memory of Brunello 1998, maybe a bit of 1999, but more like 1998. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Consistency shines in the Brizio sangiovese triumvirate, from Rosso through Brunello and into this fine, precise and focused Riserva. The wine is once again aged in 54hL Allier French oak casks but for Riserva the time increases to 48 months, followed by bottle rest refinement for no less than one year. Riserva 2010 goes straight to the heartstrings, rich and warming. That liquor is red cherries and fine new leather with incredible structure. The linger is great, warm but within means. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva Poggio al Vento 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $129.00, WineAlign)

Poggio al Vento Riserva 2010 is so very smoky and wood charred so you wonder about the fruit but air brings a fleeting glimpse of that red toned life before the wind swirls to send it back to the smoky embers beneath the roasting bones of the cinghiale. Charm in Poggio al Vento is hard to come by so early and this is far too early. The palate is richer than you think and again with wood so prevalent. There is no doubt that a wait of five more years is needed before beauty can be coaxed out of this formidable Brunello. The vintage, the vineyard and the traditional house style all conspire for this Etruscan structure, meant to impress, influence and last just long enough. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2017  @Coldorcia  @DionysusWines  coldorcia  dionysuswines  @coldorcia.brunello  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $202.95, WineAlign)

There are few Brunello vintages afforded more attention in the last 10-plus, certainly ’04 and ’06, increasingly better even from ’08 and looking forward towards what greatness will come in 2015. Yes but not solely magnified through the lens of patience and bottle time, from 2010 La Mannella has coupled upon and layered over itself like compressed fruit and puff pastry. Though it begs for drink now attention, another seven years will be needed before it can safely be labeled as uncoiled and to reveal all that is wrapped so tight. Rich is not the operative but unmistakeable as Cortonesi it is; that natural clay soil funk of resolution and fully hydrated chalk. This is to sangiovese as Les Preuses Grand Cru Chablis or Rangen Grand Cru Alsace are to Riesling. It carries in its pocket the absolute meaning and genetic responsibility of where it comes from, with a curative and restorative ability to get you lost. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

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How can i4c the future through cool chardonnay?

Every stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one man band, but #i4c Sunday @ravinevineyard is always #homewardbound

It’s #i4c, the coolest of chardonnay celebrations. It’s a pilgrimage to a local mecca attracting thousands, arriving to praise chardonnay in all its glory. It’s chanted with incantatory connotation by patrons cantilevered like alluvial fans across the Niagara Peninsula. It teaches us about more than chardonnay because the rapidity of climate change is real and the desire for fresh is yet unquenched. This transcends chardonnay. It’s about growing grapes and making wines in places we all previously discounted. Recently scoffed at. It concerns farming higher, further and edgier. This conference and this grape together let us know that we must change.

Few ideals or notions are hotter these days than those relating to cool climate viticulture and the selvage regions from where such wines are produced. That is why each summer for the past seven Niagara has attracted a world-class global presence for its most important annual congress. The seventh installation of the International Cool Chardonnay Celebration made an ironic and apropos choice in California’s Karen MacNeil to act as keynote speaker at The School of Cool. Ironic for obvious reasons because MacNeil spends most of her time talking about and educating on matters pertaining to growing areas generously gifting maximum sunshine to its grapes. Apropos because like any top quality orator she chose to speak about a rapidly changing world and a paradigm shift for wine growing, producing and ultimately consuming being led down an extreme, on the fringe and ultra cool path.

@KMacwine on @coolchardonnay Refrigerated sunlight, conscious marginality, sophisticated choreography. #i4c17

Cool, as in temperature and slowly developed phenolic ripeness. Cool, as in places like Champagne, Nova Scotia, Austria, Uruguay, northern Chile and Ontario. But MacNeil was quick to point out that the greatest terroirs may yet to be known, despite the proverbial Canadian wine cognoscenti already in the possession of harnessed and usable power through information, knowledge that tells us that five of the 15 (also known as one-third) coldest wine regions growing quality grapes, are found in Canada. “Elegance is directly connected to coolness, the slow dance, refrigerated sunlight,” waxes the poetic and rhapsodic MacNeil, “from couch potato chardonnay to lift, spirit and class.” She admits to pitting the world versus “us,” as a challenge against “them,” the overwrought, overblown and over-produced. She asks the question, “why are they not over it already, these cream puff of chardonnays?” and then “oak is like a tattoo, it doesn’t always look good with age.”

If all these warmed by the hot, hotter and hottest sun and fashioned to express this in hyperbole wines all taste so similar, is this really something reassuring and knowable? Apparently it still is, this persistent overloaded ice cream sundae style of chardonnay that will just not go away. But wake up and smell the altitude and the stone-based, craggy outlooks of  “marginal” vineyard locations. “All of the world’s greatest grapes are only great if they exist on the edge,” said the great Willamette Valley Oregonian David Lett. “Complexity is only achieved, paramount to success, by a slow dance or heartbeat. A great wine revels itself sequentially, over time,” insists KMac, as opposed to mindless and soulless. With acidity at the crux of cool climate wines she talks of “conscious marginality” and “sophisticated choreography.” This is how we should see the future, not only in chardonnay, but in all wines subjected and connected to global climate change.

Says @johnszabo apparently winemakers matter too. #i4c17 @coolchardonnay I do it my way #schoolofcool

Related – A link to the School of Cool presentation download

In the first of three Friday School of Cool sessions at White Oaks Conference Resort and Spa it is MC Master Sommelier and WineAlign Partner/Critic John Szabo who introduces the “soil smackdown.” The question “is there a best soil type for chardonnay” is meant to instigate a healthy discourse but like every #i4c that came before it quickly turns to a dissing of the “m” word. Paul Anamosa of Vineyard Soil Technologies, the main man down in California, is the first to speak. He rambles on about trace minerals, nematicides, oils and clay minerals – kaolinite is the smallest and yet still a very big molecule. “I don’t know too many winemakers with deflated ego problems,” is interjected. “Minerality is a metaphor, not a simile (like what it shown on the aroma wheel). It does not get up and impart flavour into the wine. It’s a romantic notion. Limestone doesn’t give up its water readily or easily.” Here we go again.

Anamosa will give up the idea that poor soil structure allows for a low and slow hydration transfer, with no spikes up or down and this uptake certainly affects vine growth, nutrient transfer and ultimately flavour, but its the elements found in the water that effect these impressions. Not “minerality.” Must be hard to go through life with such a scientifically nihilist approach. It sounds exhausting.

I don’t know too many winemakers with deflated ego problems. Paul Anamosa @coolchardonnay #soilsmackdown #i4c17

Three winemakers go pro on the mineral ideal. Paul Berger of Berger-Rive has been making his wine since he was four-years old and unsulphured Rosé no less. He talks of clay over limestone, places where “the ground is in love.”  Thomas Bachelder monkifies the soil plant matrix made to transmit minerality. “It’s as much about photosynthesis in the new world but minerality is still apart of it. Jory soils in Oregon bring a salty tang, a savour. It’s true.” Shiraz Mottiar notes that calcareous soils that start wet and sticky eventually turn to concrete. “They don’t crumble, there is no soil tilt, they are angular, evolving and difficult, self-compacting and that hard-pan deals with high mineral content. So we use cover crops for developing soil tilt and friable structure.” There points for the mineral team. Szabo concludes with “anyone getting the sense that this is pure crap? We’re going to continue with the program anyway. Monkeys in a parallel universe are doing this and doing it better.”

In the second session, “Chardonnay, I do it my way,” Szabo told several hundred #i4c junkies “apparently winemakers matter too.” I thought Invivo Wines’ Mark Boardman said it best. “Rob (winemaker “Crusher” Cameron) is not trying to make a $100 Burgundy here folks,” but rather chardonnay can be so happy in so many places, in so many ways. Here it’s from one of the warmest parts of New Zealand, with high rainfall, on Pacific coast of the South Island. It’s about pleasing the customers, being approachable and “nice” on the palate. “Respect, not patronize the consumer.”

François Morissette, vigneron of Pearl Morissette talked technique. “Whatever we press, we oxidize. We do not oxidize wine, we oxidize must.” There’s a big difference. The stabilization of these wines are attributed to this idea of getting rid of all oxidizable compounds before they enter into the next stages of the winemaking process. Pleasing aromas, flavours, textures and ultimately the sum of the above elevates the cool chardonnay game and speaks to the future. Ravine Vineyard’s Marty Werner remarked on the high degree of heat units but also the cool nights in 2014 so his chardonnay received no cooling, some sulphur for a night, straight to barrel and left a bit empty. Why? “Because it’s different in Niagara, you need to get some oxygen in there, so that we develop some more fruit characteristic.”

Dr. Jamie Goode

Heidi Noble, Owner & Winemaker of B.C.’s Joie Farm coined the term “juiceidity.” She told the crowd, “when (cellarmaster) Karl speaks it’s incredibly important and poignant,” he knows the truth about location, from the most northerly tip of the Sonoran desert but in a zone of what Karen MacNeil called “conscious marginality,” a micro climate of cool within a hot zone.

And finally, le grand ami himself Norman Hardie. “Solids matter to me,” he explains. “We pump out the separated clear juice until the point where I feel like we are getting to the danger zone.” They make use of horizontal tanks, “so the ratio of solids to juice is much higher.” Solids are critical to expressing terroir but too many solids and it’s too reductive. “I’ve gotten braver and braver as time’s gone on.” Mackenzie Brisbois talked about the 2015 vintage, her first full one at Trail Estate. Her methods include hyper-oxidized, cold-settled, natural ferments in stainless steel, put to barrel towards the end, 4o per cent new, 60 neutral, full malo, 10 more months, sulphured, racked out of barrel and a coarse filtration so it’s called unfiltered. “Hopefully my lack of filtration helps you to hear the music in my wine.”

The third School of Cool session looked at dosage in bubbles. “The Sugar Trials,” or as moderator John Szabo M.S. told us “sparkling wines are wines of process and one of the most important events happens right at the end of the trail and that’s called dosage.” Essentially, the crux of what it is, the sugar trials define how much, if any, should be added.

A Sunday #i4c @coolchardonnay morning at the P & P and Josh Ritter covering Modest Mouse. Johnny Cash next.

Dr. Belinda Kemp led the panel discussion and her research at Brock University’s CCOVI lies at the heart of the Ontario wine industry’s investigations. Tawse winemaker Paul Pender had this to say. “Balance is something I strive for but rarely achieve.” He noted that it’s about pleasure, hedonism sometimes, ultimately something that makes you smile, and tastes good. It’s always a moving target, so many things effect how it tastes and more so your perception of sugar and acidity, even what you had for breakfast this morning. “Sugar kind of takes away terroir.” Dr. Jamie Goode added, “it turns out we all live in different taste worlds. Because we model touch, taste, smell and all the sensory perceptions into an unconscionable, alt-reality which bears no real resemblance to how a wine actually tastes. It’s highly personal.”

The i4c weekend takes winemakers, journalists and consumers from White Oaks’ School of Cool and over to Niagara Airport’s hangar for a grand, cool affair. It shuttles past lunch tastings scattered across and throughout the Niagara Peninsula and Escarpment locations and lands at Ridley College for the worlds most grand chardonnay event. It culminates on Sunday at Ravine and Redstone wineries for brunch and if you’ve not had your fill, more chardonnay. Most of all it brings people together but not without an army of volunteers to make it happen. It functions seamlessly because of people like the Cellar Sisters, Angie Jewell and MJ Macdonald, Paul Dearborn and Kari-and Macknight Dearborn. The Cool Chardonnay weekend delivers year after year with thanks to VQA Wines of Ontario, Dorian Anderson and Trisha Molokach and the chefs of Niagara. The media are treated (better than we deserve) because of Wine Country Ontario’s Magdalena Kaiser, Joanna Muratori and Ryan Zanette.

I was not able to taste and review every chardonnay on hand at #i4c17 but I did get to a better percentage than I actually thought I had at the time. Many of these wines are available in small quantities through the VINTAGES Online platform through August 3rd so you have exactly three more days to act. Here are 69 reviews. If you are thinking about injecting some cool chardonnay into the rest of your summer plans then read on and make your picks. I hope I’ve been of some assistance.

Are you ready for an #i4c17 @coolchardonnay Saturday night?

Invivo Chardonnay 2016, Gisborne, North Island, New Zealand (499855, Agent, $16.95, WineAlign)

A nicely green and cool Gisborne composed chardonnay is just the ticket for warm nights, frâche-inflected appetizers and a good chill. This is quite fleshy, creamy and tangy, just stopping short of citrus-sour piercing and intense. It’s that creamy sherbet and tangy gelato character that balances it out. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted June and July 2017  invivowines  nicholaspearcewines  @InvivoWines   @Nicholaspearce_  @InvivoWines  Nicholas Pearce

Maycas del Limarí Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2015, Limarí Valley, Chile (143768, $18.95, WineAlign)

Lovely vintage and cool-climate conditioning with A-plus exemplary effort from the Limarí specialist. The ripe and bright fruit is buoyed by classically rendered acidity that never relents. I really like the elegance and the way the wood is just a spice accent, not a cream churning machine. Not to be missed. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May and July 2017  maycasdellimari  #thevineagency  wines_of_chile_canada  @Maycasdellimari  @TheVine_RobGroh  @WinesofChile  @maycasdellimari  The Vine – Robert Groh Agency  @WinesOfChile

Cheesecake Bar by Chef Frand Dodd, Trius Winery and Restaurant

Trius Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (346064, Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

Quite flinty and mineral smoky, even for Trius and Niagara chardonnay so it would seem that winemaker Craig McDonald prepared this larger batch with a friendly reductive environment. The aim, goal and result adds up to locked in freshness and a decoding of oak to relegate the label as secondary to the post-modern future of this bottling. It’s crisp, crunchy, spoken of and for place with edging cut with spice. The creamy centre is present and delivers texture, not weight. Really fine effort. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  triuswines  @TriusWines  @triuswines

Esterházy Chardonnay Leithaberg DAC 2015, Burgenland, Austria (511386, Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Tangibly full and rich style of chardonnay with a flinty, smoky limestone foundation edge, a pierce running through the barrel spiced mid-palate and quite generous length. Really fleshy, lemon-citrus sparked, clean, precise and stony good. Of markedly fine compression, layers woven of tart and stone. A highly composed and forged composition, in action and temperament, so kudos to the great work out of a warm vintage. It’s a complete wine all the way through, perhaps restrained at first but structure is the key to its success. An Austro-pure, appellative finessed chardonnay if ever there was from a place where the grape thrives unencumbered and blessedly expressive. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted twice, with Stefan Tscheppe, July 2017  #esterhazy @esterhazywein  austrianwine  Esterhazy Wein  @NaturalVines  @oesterreichwein  @AustrianWine  @BirgittaSamavar  Marzia Gallo  @austrianwine

Pierre Sparr Le Clos Sainte Odile Brut Crémant D’alsace, Traditional Method, Ac, Alsace, France (457788, Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Sparr’s site specific Crémant would seem counterintuitive to the free and easy-going genre which prides itself on the purpose of wide-ranging food matching but the divergence here in minimal. Le Clos Sainte Odile is equally proportioned though it carries a marked increase in lees and texture. Smells more like Champagne and acts this way too, so in that sense the quality improves and food will benefit several fold. The length is exceptional. Still creamy Crémant but with more layers and fine complex stills. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted June and July 2017  #pierresparr  profilewinegroup  vinsalsace  drinkalsace  #PierreSparr  @ProfileWineGrp  @AlsaceWines @VinsAlsace  Pierre Sparr  Bernard Sparr  Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs  Profile Wine Group  @AlsaceWinesOfficial  @vinsalsace

Pierre Sparr Crémant D’alsace Chardonnay Brut Méthode Traditionnelle, Ac Alsace, France (416040, Agent, $20.00, WineAlign)

In Sparr’s eponymous Crémant bottling the dosage is evident in every facet of fizz being to balance out the sour acidity and formidable tension. The most Champagne like of the flight is contextual, textural, elevated and serious. It is a bit on the sweet side (at 8 g/L of RS) as compared to (3.7 TA and pH of 3.29) with 18 months minimum on the lees and aging in oak casks. There is no shortage of fruit and that acidity is surprisingly lively. Tasted with Bernard Sparr who says quite simply, it’s “easy to drink.” Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  #pierresparr  profilewinegroup  vinsalsace  drinkalsace  #PierreSparr  @ProfileWineGrp  @AlsaceWines @VinsAlsace  Pierre Sparr  Bernard Sparr  Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs  Profile Wine Group  @AlsaceWinesOfficial  @vinsalsace

Marcel Cabelier Crémant De Jura Organic 2014, Jura, France (738641, Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

A most engrossing and provocative Crémant, at first aromatically onion skin sweaty and sweetly caramelized. No citrus to really speak of and then lemon sweetness to taste. Sapid to be sure, leaner, crisp, on the path to a searing style. Fascinating when you consider the dosage number is upwards to 12.3 RS while the actual acidity is 5.26 TA. An elevated 3.37 pH and a ripeness from the warm vintage really helps to hide its sugar, incredibly so. Texture never hurts as well as this spent 24 months on the lees. Will age nicely into secondary waxy territory. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted with winemaker Nicolas Haeffelin at i4c, July 2017  #marcelcabelier  #andrewpellerimportagency  #jurawine  #marcelcabelier  @APImportAgency  @JuraWine   #marcelcabelier  @APImportAgency  @JuraWine

Cremaschi Furlotti Chardonnay Single Vineyard 2015, Do Loncomillo, Maule Valley, Chile (511097, Agent, $22.00, WineAlign)

DO Loncomilla lies at the heart of the Maule Valley, a place of serious Chilean history. The Battle of Loncomilla was the decisive campaign of the 1851 Chilean Revolution between conservative government and liberal rebel forces. It’s also apparently a terrific place to grow chardonnay. Winemaker Gonzalo Perez’ 2015 is a fuller expression, with green apple piquancy to nose, a wealth of fruit, tart done so right and a true barrel-blessed chardonnay bite. It reeks of stone, acts restrained enough to seem (at times) unsure but in its quietude there is a mineral sway to say this must be the way. It solicits a follow me down the stone road, up to a very orchard palate with gregarious flavours and compressed acidity. Serious, almost brooding chardonnay but very new world. Chewy and very long. The soils are volcanic and alluvial, aiding and assisting to gather into this highly complex, 100 per cent malolactic, reductive, tart and biting chardonnay. The most surprising and intriguing find at #14c17. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  cremaschi_furlotti  @winecremaschi  @cremaschifurlotti

Coteau Rougemont Chardonnay La Côte 2015, Quebec, Canada (Winery, $24.00, WineAlign)

From La Famille Robert and the latest, newest, impressionable cool climate frontier in Rougemont Quebec, climate change delivers another stellar chardonnay attack, here with something quite supple, almost creamy, acid-driven but surprisingly far from scathing and eminently drinkable. These vines are planted on sun-drawing south facing slopes with more than ample pebble and schist in the soil, enough no less to streak a wire of balance through the softened, downy fruit. Well done. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  coteaurougemont  #CoteauRougement  @VinsduQuebec  Vignoble Coteau Rougemont

Creekside Chardonnay Queenston Road Vineyard 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Comes barreling out replete with the highest of chard tones mixed with plenty of richness lifting and layering oak. Quite ambitious, full malo felt, of waves more than dollops of vanilla. The acidity comes later because nothing can get in the way of the creamy texture and voluptuousness. Cool but secondary to these flavours and mouthfeel are incendiary savoury tendencies. Adding things up all being equal the Queenston Road, St. David’s Bench vineyard, with its clay-loam and the eventuality of full-malo effect well, it’s really a thing of richesse. “I wouldn’t say this wine is a whole lot about minerality,” says winemaker Yvonne Irvine, “but it’s there in the bite on the finish.” Fair enough. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  creeksidewine  @CreeksideWine  @CreeksideWine

Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (586347Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

If you have had the opportunity to taste the Montague Vineyard chardonnay from Niagara’s Four-Mile Creek sub-appellation in at least four consecutive vintages you will know that its style is only exceeded by its consistency. Little has changed; the same warm, barrel-kissed style comforts generously pressed and extracted fruit. It’s not that I don’t deduce soft, downy and buttery fruit from Montague. I do, but this vineyard always offers a counter-point with some firmness and compression, as it does with pinot noir. This 2014 is smoky and faintly smouldering, even a touch flinty. Even if it is a bit baked, spiced or toasted it is also a more mineral vintage for chardonnay. On one hand it offers or gives up too much of itself (and too early), with creamy vanilla, ripe melon and sappy, stone-fruit. On the other it finds balance amongst the dense layering of bigger, harder and more productive moving parts. You are going to want to match this with some protein and a good reduction sauce. I’d look to pulled pork, zesty kohlrabi slaw and a tangy BBQ sauce, duck confit with a savoury-spiked demi-glacé or coq au vin, just to name a few. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted January 2017  inniskillinwines  cbrandscareers  @InniskillinWine  @CBrandsCareers  Inniskillin Vineyards  

Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay 2016, Margaret River, Western Australia (416511, $24.95,  WineAlign)

Same price and highly credible follow-up is what we can all hope to taste and make comment to the great winemakers of this world so kudos to Virginia Willcocks of Vasse Felix for doling out another eminently drinkable Filius. Still holds the Australian cool-climate chardonnay candle from the Margaret River though it’s a touch fleshier, riper and creamier in 2016. The combination of salt and stony-mineral adds up to grip and the tightness means some air is needed. A mess of grilled langoustines would also work. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted June and July 2017  vassefelixwines  margaretriver  @vassefelix  @MargaretRiver  @MargaretRiverWi  @vassefelixwines  @MargaretRiverWineRegion  @margaretriverwines1

Château Des Charmes Paul Bosc Estate Chardonnay 2014, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (511345, Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Here is fine example of a winery showing off their rockstar barrel program in a starman of a chardonnay. The dreaminess on the nose and the early 1970’s ambient and textured guitar unction on the palate just get you stoned. “Didn’t know what time it was and the lights were low…Some cat was layin’ down some rock ‘n’ roll, ‘lotta soul.” Tart, lots of wood, bite, so much structure. Is it too much? Not when it’s the kind of chardonnay and music that can stand the test of time. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted blind at NWAC17, June 2017 and at #14c, July 2017  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (289124, $25.25, WineAlign)

The vintage is a ripe, accessible and easy to love one so this marks a 90 degree turn for the Saint Martin. This is Laroche’s most important cuvée, sold in 80 countries and collected from select plots across 60 hectares of vines. Structure will always direct this cuvée and so long as Gregory Viennois is winemaker you can be sure that a taut entry will be joined by some subtle oak richness (in 2015, eight per cent in large, 25 year-old, 55 hL foudres). It’s just an aromatic hint but look forward with eyes closed and inculcate the texture addendum. Acids are soft and caressing. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted July 2016 and 2017  laroche_wines  selectwinemoments  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines  @SelectWinesCanada

Southbrook Chardonnay Triomphe 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (172338, Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

The fruit for Ann Sperling’s chardonnay Triomphe ’15 is sourced primarily from Saunders (Beamsville Bench) with auxiliary support out of Heather Laundry’s old vine Lincoln Lakeshore vineyard. There are older, non-clonal blocks with perhaps some Musqué mixed in so the aromatics fly, with no restraint applied by the wild ferment and (mostly 300L) neutral oak. This Triomphe is anything but reductive, a no stress chardonnay from such a far from sluggish, clean ferment. The simplicity and complicity explain how beauty is curated, from a vintage where reduction did not happen or beg to happen so why try to force it. The copacetic re-quiescence bears witness to classic Ann Sperling in such a vintage. Chardonnay of mellow smoulder, of old barrel spice and one to define a certain kind on a line of disparate and unique, cool climate, i4c selections. There are 800 cases made. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted January and July 2017  southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @TheLivingVine  @SouthbrookWine   @SouthbrookWine  The Living Vine inc.

Bachelder Chardonnay Niagara 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (302083, Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Thomas Bachelder’s ’15 chardonnay is a story of what happens ’round here, a chardonnay counting the years of peninsula life. It’s so representative, a comfortable stroll through the echelons and stages of a man’s history, in and out of Niagara eponymy and how it relates to a monk’s personal journey. It also traces the stages of vineyard life and for the winemaker, of fruit “slipping through my hands.” Out of 2015 chardonnay can be forgotten, with weather nothing to remember and on the heels of two most excellent seasons. It could easily pass “into the fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white.” Here is the time, place and harvest for Thomas Bachelder to interject and explain, to send a grape into a recognizable future, as far as the crow flies. He uses the barrel to pique the fruit into life, to inject French cream with the very intent in demand of its intention. Flavours are therefore sapid, piquant and variegated. In the end, you can drink this in August and into complexity, everything after. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  bachelder_wines  liffordgram  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON  @BachelderWines  @liffordwineandspirits

Joie Farm Unoaked Chardonnay 2016, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (511261Agent, $25.00, WineAlign)

Terpenes up front, orchard fruit and high acidity in ways that mimic riesling but the broad apple juice swirl and bite on the palate is all chardonnay. Shows sugar tempered by acidity in what is ostensibly fresh and simple, unoaked Okanagan juice. This is made in the vineyard, picked three times, from straightforward winemaking, making use of lots of solids,”lots of liquid aromatics,” as Heidi Noble notes. Champagne yeasts are employed to celebrate place. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  joie farm  liffordgram  #JoieFarm  @LiffordON  @joiefarm  @liffordwineandspirits

Willamette dammit! @bachelder_wines @coolchardonnay #i4c17

Bachelder Chardonnay Willamette 2014, Oregon (273334, Agent, $25.00, WineAlign)

The richest Bachelder Oregon to date for reasons explained by the indubitable and unwavering Thomas is no doubt in leading part a result of one of the earliest vintages on record for Oregon Pinot Noir. His Willamette is a veritable intertwine of mineral, fruit and energy like there is no tomorrow. Also welcome to the lengthy one. The barrel is a caramel pillow, a downy wooden bench, a soft French cream dream. Drinkable is the understatement, pleasure the song. Willamette Dammit. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  bachelder_wines  liffordgram  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON  @BachelderWines  @liffordwineandspirits

Westcott Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (427484, Winery, $25.95, WineAlign)

This is one of the first near-premium chardonnays to hit the market from 2016 and so a decision needs to be quickly made if the style is more vintage or house in origin. There really isn’t any estate precedence for this superabundance of fruit on the “normale,” like Christmas coming early or Niagara peaches appearing in June. The ripeness goes beyond freestone fruit and into the tropical realms occupied by mango and pineapple. There is no denying the nectarous and appetizing nature so I’d like to think it’s really a seasonal somewhereness that drives the druthers. Drink this young and with some poached seafood. It will satisfy the pairing. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  westcottvineyards  @WestcottWines  @westcottwines

Domaine Berger Rive Manoir De Mercey Bourgogne Hautes Côtes De Beaune Clos Des Dames 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $26.95, WineAlign)

A restrained, faux-sugary, hautes Bourgogne, spirited near but so far from a Reuilly-like nose. You think it’s thin but know it’s not while the fruit struggles to steal the spotlight from the rocks. Very cool chardonnay with crazy natural sweetness and sneaky length. The warm vintage plus the limestone calcareous soil grows on you for sure and so that length shows off the best of its world and the talents of winemaker Paul Berger. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  @FWMCan  #BergerRive  fwmcan  @FWMCan

Traversa Viña Salort Chardonnay Reserve 2016, Canelones, Uruguay (511550, Agent, $29.00, WineAlign)

Chardonnay from Canelones needs to discovered and Traversa’s Reserve is a fine high-end place top start. The name is derived from a species of cinnamon called “canelón, growing along the banks of the homonymous river. This new fringe frontier for chardonnay is found here 50 kms or so north of Uruguay’s capital Montevideo. A specific sort of freshness is locked in tight, reductive in a gassing up the truck sort of way, subduing fruit and inviting mineral meanderings. It’s on the palate where things get very interesting, upon which the spice, buttered toast and brûlee of pears lay. There is a few percentage points too much wood on this next South terroir-Americanific frontier chardonnay but the substantial mid-palate fruit can handle the accents. A fine example in many respects. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted July 2017  familiatraversa  @TraversaUSA

Malivoire Chardonnay Mottiar 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

This is classic Mottiar chardonnay, lean, sharp, quivering and yet somehow so knowable and comfortable. As time goes by this generates the confidence to represent the Beamsville Bench as its prodigal son, the handsome one, of pulchritude and with the promise of great memories ahead. If it’s a bit reductive, taut and aerified chardonnay, so be it, but it’s also so very Niagara, essential, the essence of what happens on dolomitic limestone. The low (3.15) pH factor at go time caused a force picked at high acidity to maintain the lean style and a partial (not much) malo assists in effecting this high-level bench factor. Shiraz Mottiar’s eponymous chardonnay is the shit, for Beamsville and for what he does best. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  malivoire  shirazmottiar  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar  @MalivoireWine  

Rodney Strong Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2014, Sonoma Coast, California (465724, $29.95, WineAlign)

The first appearance of the Rodney Strong Sonoma Coast bottling is an auspicious one, announced with ripe and delicious clarity. Though the nose is a bit reserved there is no reductive quality and the orchard is but a mere stone’s throw away from really standing out. The wood shows up on the vanilla, caramel tangy and further, deeper into the apple tree’s palate. The finish brings a pie from out of the warm oven. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2016 and July 2017  rsvineyards  markanthonyon  california.wines  @rsvineyards  @ImportWineMAFWM  @CalifWines_CA  @Rodney.Strong.Vineyards  @MarkAnthonyWine  @CaliforniaWinesCanada

13th Street Sandstone Reserve Chardonnay 2013, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

No surprise the vintage is a major plus for the Sandstone and the natural funk it owns. And I mean owns. Only Sandstone has such geological drive, not unlike chardonnay from South Africa’s Hemel-En-Aarde Valley. In 2013 there is a sweetness to the fruit mixed with a misty humidity and finally that falling over backwards with feet stuck in the clay and the calcaire. Wildness from J. P. Colas here and with attentiveness to place and time. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted at #i4c16, July 2016 and #14c17, July 2017  13thstreetwinery  @13thStreetWines  @13thStreetWines

Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, (68817, $29.95, WineAlign)

Exemplary follow up to a terrific 2013 with more emerald gemstone, green apple bite and fine textured lees running through. Tart and yet not at the same time, seemingly sweet but only in the way that flavourful salts with added umami can collect, pool and co-exist. Just great focus, precision, fineness and balance. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted June 2017 and #14c, July 2017  hidden bench  @HiddenBench  @Hidden.Bench

Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The nose on this chardonnay is pretty, alive, vibrant and pure. The palate is exceptional, fleshy and full. There is intensity and precision, class and seamless integration of fruit, acidity and texture. Really longDrink 2018-2024. Tasted blind at #NWAC17, June 2017 and at #14c, July 2017  thirty bench  @ThirtyBench  @ThirtyBench

Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Ravine’s is one of those chardonnay blessed with uncanny ability to amalgamate the sumptuousness of fruit warmed by sun and kissed repeatedly by barrel. The equation renders delicacy and texture, so obviously and vehemently spoken in the 2015 Peninsula language. It really is all about texture with a plus-minus spice note codicil and cool unction drawn like butter in suspended animation, a pool into which all parts have melted. Needs a year to finalize the deal and sweeten the pot. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  ravinevineyard  marty_werner  benminaker23  @RavineVineyard  @marty_werner  @BMinaker23  Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery  Martin Werner  Ben Minaker

Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay 2014, Monterey, California (220343, Agent, $31.00, WineAlign)

Chardonnay sans wood doesn’t get more premium than this (save for some Chablis) so the use of unlined concrete tanks (a third to a half) allows the sort of micro-oxegynation that elevates the complexity game. Despite the hard-goings of working this way, the delivery is a crisp, crunchy and slightly edgy (and eggy) ’14 with addendum by the confluence of fog, sun and sea. Mer Soleil. More pear than green apple, the character speaks a Monterey note. The packaging has left ceramic behind in favour of electrostatic painted (second-purposed) glass, made to look like (and celebrate) concrete. This is surprisingly creamy so the solids get their say and the conclusion is of a chardonnay made this way that rarely achieves such a level of texture and piquancy. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  mersoleilwine  #andrewpellerimportagency  @MerSoleilChard  @APImportAgency  @MerSoleilVineyard  Andrew Peller (Andrew Peller Import)

House of Chards #i4c Lunch at Trius

Artesa Chardonnay 2014, Carneros, Napa Valley, California (657585, Agent, $31.00, WineAlign)

The differing and contrastive style in Artesa’s ordinario is literally chardonnay night in comparison to the estate’s reserve day. Absent is the mineral alloy streak, the temper and the level of fruit quality and density so that here the buttery and creamy oak is felt on top and down below. Acidity, tension and posit tugs of intensity are relegated and softened to the mild mannered and middle palate personality. This is 70 per cent estate fruit, simple, rich, soft and mildly spicy chardonnay, antithetical for completion recognition of the basic to reserve paradigm. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  artesawinery  #andrewpellerimportagency  @Artesa  @APImportAgency  @Artesa

Adamo Oaked Chardonnay Willms’ Vineyard 2014, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $32.00, WineAlign)

This is the second vintage of the Willms, a rich and viscous chardonnay with green apple bite. More barrel (15 months, 30 per cent new) on this than others in an #i4c School of Cool flight and also Beaune-styled, ambitious otherwise but certainly the structured and gregarious one. Chardonnay as many would recognize, could be nothing other, some terpenic moments but the cool, sharp and spirited are mixed into the clay. Last tasted July 2017.

Adamo sources from the same vineyard that provides fruit for 13th Street’s Sandstone Reserve in the Four Mile Creek sub-appellation of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Planted in 1983, it is owned and farmed by Erv, Esther and Eric Willms. In its early stages the fruit acted and reacted as a lean, taut and tension fuelled chardonnay with party a sign of letting up. Eight months later the juicy flesh of orchard fruit pushes past the vintage’s grip and lets tis wine breath a sigh of relief. Chalk one up to yet another cool-climate, calcareous clay stuck moment in time. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, at #i4c16, July 2016 and Taste Ontario, March 2017  adamoestatewinery  @AdamoEstateWine  @adamoestatewinery

Trail Estate Chardonnay Unfiltered 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $32.00, WineAlign)

A blend of vineyards, from Ed Hughes and (Wismer) Foxcroft, perhaps with some influence under the lingering auspices of the Norman Hardie school, here in the playful and progressive hands of Mack Brisbois. Mackenzie employs no sulphur at processing, allowing for chardonnay efficacious and liberally oxidized, settled, cold stabilized, non bentonite-affected, chilled and racked. Not lost is the ever-commented process of going at it with wild ferment, but also caution thrown to the wind via no temperature control (but yes on the Hughes fruit), with the final end game in search of and wanting a fruity Chablis side. Done up in half stainless plus 50 old 500L and two 225L barrels. The sulphur was added in October, the full malo achieved and then bottled in November. All of this technical mumbo-jumbo to say there is still quite a creamy, leesy, oaky feeling but like some others in Niagara (Robyn’s Block, Oliveira and Aberdeen) it totes great palate texture and a “fruitiness,” but it’s not fruity. It may not recreate the Chablis fruit to mineral purity but it is a righteous, proper and Niagara purity fashioned in PEC. There are 266 Cases. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted December 2016 and July 2017  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  @TrailEstateWinery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Westcott Vineyards Chardonnay Lenko Old Vine 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $32.95, WineAlign)

The iconic vineyard, the wise old vines, the chance to make some magic; these are all a part of the mystery and the mystique of Lenko placed in the hands of one winemaker at a time, fruit put to bottle in his or her own special way. It’s simple isn’t it? “Go far enough and you will reach, a place where the sea runs underneath,” take up the grapes and do what they need. In terms of chardonnay the vineyard is ground zero, the genesis, the oldest Chardonnay planting in Canada. In Arthur Harder’s hands the fruit reaches you with apposite if ambient sparks while its chords are strummed with 12 strings so that it never loses touch with its structure. A very expressive chardonnay from a benevolent vintage, Westcott’s breaks free from traditional Niagara with this tart and that tart. There is wind, wuthering and it has the uncanny ability “of turning the world so it’s facing the way that I’m going.” Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted July 2017  westcottvineyards  @WestcottWines  @westcottwines

Chateau Des Charmes Blanc De Blanc Sparkling Méthode Traditionelle 2014, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (511352, $32.95, WineAlign)

A different sort this one, with lots of barrel spice, liquid splinter creaminess, a heavier dosage to be sure, creamy lemon and almond skin, but also pith. Complex if commercially sweeter, rich and fatter, something School of Cool 2017 Sugar Trials panelist Rhys Pender MW agrees with. Making sparkling wine from the warmish Niagara-on-the-Lake regional-appellation (which includes the warm St. David’s Bench) has its pros and cons, the positives mostly tending to richness and the negatives the compromise to energy and verve. Winemaker Amélie Boury manages the dosage of 10 g/L RS with natural acidity (5.5 g/L TA), a forthcoming low pH of 3.16 and a late September pick. “For richer fruit” she notes and then a coupling texture by fermenting in barrels. Look for it on the ambit of tertiary personality after a few years of age. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Domaine De Mauperthuis Chablis Vieilles Vignes Les Malantes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (511063, $33.95, WineAlign)

From a new family (relatively speaking) to Chablis, the estate belongs to Marie-Noëlle & Laurent Ternynck. The old vines Chablis saw 12 months in foudres, on the lees, with fruit gathered from vineyards in Fleys. The cool spot comes with a higher altitude, on a windswept plateau and so harvest is generally five to six days later. And so their Chablis is cool, direct, taut and sapid stuff, as Chablis will go, from such a climat and handled so. Acidity runs rampant and travels quickly up and down and into parts of the mouth that stand up to take notice. Sharp and focused Chablis. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017  #mauperthuis  vinsdechablis  vinsdebourgogne  nicholaspearcewines  #Mauperthuis  @vinsdechablis  @VinsdeBourgogne  @Nicholaspearce_  Vins de Bourgogne / Burgundy wines  Nicholas Pearce

Mer Soleil Chardonnay “SLH” 2015, Santa Lucia Highlands, California (958975, Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

The sun always shines upon Mer Soleil’s “SLH,” a chardonnay equipped with exceptional fruit purity that welcomes but could go it so much more confidently alone without the mask-caking make-up. It needs a fraction of the wood it receives. A tour de force of ocean and sun (tied together by fog) delivers acidity, sapidity and the fruit is raised to keep things moving swimmingly along. So it’s got that going for it. Which is nice. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  mersoleilwine  #andrewpellerimportagency  @MerSoleilChard  @APImportAgency  @MerSoleilVineyard  Andrew Peller (Andrew Peller Import)

Good man this man. Great winemaker this winemaker #i4c @coolchardonnay

Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Chardonnay 2013, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (111989, $35.80, WineAlign)

When I tasted Quarry Road 2013 out of four barrels three years ago the purpose was to take in the nuances and see only the trees. I for one could not help seeing the forest through the trees and imagining percentages of each combining for the final blend. Neutral Mercurey wood looked over infant three year-old vines spoken here with surprising density, tang and tropical melon in both aroma and flavour. This sits on the front palate right now. The mineral Ceres qualifies older fruit as the pretty and the gemstone, essential for Quarry Road, the most like (Meursault) in Burgundy. This fruit transferred to stainless on the lees from September to March before going into bottle now renders to make Quarry the purest expression from the best vineyard. The CLL toast delivers the taut, not yet reductive wood tightening, then and again now, mainly on the finish. Compressed citrus notes are late arriving and even if it is splitting hairs, the oak really impacts the finish. The larger CLL toast Mercurey barrel reveals a fresher, more reductive, less oaky feel. All together we now have one of Paul Pender’s most accomplished to date and all chardonnays considered, one of the finest higher end values around. I think he would agree. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May and July 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Maycas del Limarí Chardonnay Quebrada Seca 2013, Limarí Valley, Chile (331520, $36.00, WineAlign)

Maycas de Limarí’s Quebrada Seca or “dry-cracked” makes reference to the fragmented soils, a place of low-fertility and chardonnay loving terroir. This spent 14 months in (30 per cent new) but it’s not just the extended barrel time that separates it from the estate’s Reserva. Vintage plays a significant role in conjunction with the soil and it teaches so much about the virtues of patience and time. No malo but high sapidity, lots of bite and the verdant, healthy life are borne out of poor fertility. This is life affirming chardonnay from harsh climes. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  maycasdellimari  #thevineagency  wines_of_chile_canada  @Maycasdellimari  @TheVine_RobGroh  @WinesofChile  @maycasdellimari  The Vine – Robert Groh Agency  @WinesOfChile

Joie Farm Chardonnay “En Famille” 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (511113Agent, $36.00, WineAlign)

The developed layers of fruit are well integrated and interwoven into the mildness of both barrel and tannin. The sweetness of that sun-kissed fruit leaves a lasting impression from what has been brought into being by a warm and impressionable vintage. Exemplary three or four year Okanagan chardonnay that shows off its charming sucrosity. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  joie farm  liffordgram  #JoieFarm  @LiffordON  @joiefarm  @liffordwineandspirits

Sneak peak in the @TriusWines Meunier with Craig McDonald and a true Niagara Grand Cru @coolchardonnay site #lincolnlakeshore #oliveiravineyards #vqa #wildferment

Trius Showcase Chardonnay Wild Ferment Oliveira Vineyard 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (199273, $36.20, WineAlign)

When you consider the level of quality provided by the Wild Ferment 2014 it would be hard to imagine raising the bar any further but this is what winemaker Craig McDonald has managed with his exceptional 2015. The accomplishment is purely based on one year older, wiser and complexities developed Oliveira Farm vineyard fruit, the holy chardonnay grail, Lincoln Lakeshore playground. The site sits along the QEW below the escarpment’s Twenty Mile and Beamsville benches, a recipient of glacial till and rocks left behind by an ancient river running from a lake. It’s a chardonnay wonderland. Intensity of fruit purity, fleshy and real, remarkably juicy and notably crunchy has increased, upping the pleasure game and turning the impression knob up to 11. The windmill generates more power while always maintaining a classic Trius level of finesse. Then you think on the wood integration, equally impressionable because acidity is sweet and refined. Dry extract is also impressive, not to mention a fineness of grape tannin. The site’s unofficial designation as a Niagara Grand Cru should be upgraded with status. There is no better time than the present and the Wild Ferment’s 2015 ability is proof enough. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2017  triuswines  @TriusWines  @triuswines

Exquisite dish by Frank Dodd @TriusWines #houseofchards #i4c lunch . . . Lake Huron Whitefish, lobster and scallop sausage, crab croquettes, asparagus, sweet peas, celeriac slaw, seabuck

Trius Showcase Chardonnay Wild Ferment Oliveira Vineyard 2014, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (199273, $36.20, WineAlign)

With fruit from the Niagara chardonnay mecca Oliveira Vineyard and the addendum of yet another stellar varietal vintage it is this Craig McDonald speciality that helps to steal the show. Striking out with near-raging acidity (pushing and possibly exceeding the 8 g/L mark) the Wild Ferment is one of the most formidable expressions of 2014, if not ever. All the moving parts work fervently and impressively as if the motor is running and the machine careening around the speedway. To keep composure it is texture that brings about grounding, balance and cadence, from obvious lees perfection and 30 per cent new wood plus the rest forged by two to five year old barrels. This is creamy, energetic and tannic chardonnay, all conspiring to express itself with both weight and poise. From a maker who’s been around the block a few times, the ’14 WF will go the distance. And you can start now. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted at Cuvée, March 2017 an #i4c July 2017  triuswines  @TriusWines  @triuswines

Esterházy Il Magnifico Blanc de Blancs Brut 2013, Burgenland, Austria (511378, Agent, $37.95, WineAlign)

Esterházy was a Hungarian noble family with origins in the Middle Ages, generally bilingual, in Hungarian (as a result of their ethnicity) and German (as they were aristocrats of the Austrian Empire). The family was intrinsically tied to the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn (master to Beethoven) and the estate today shares the same desire; to epitomize the aims and achievements of the Classical era, Hadyn for music and today, Esterházy for contemporary Austrian wine. General Manager Stefan Tscheppe spins a tale of Nikolaus II, the wealthy late 18th and early 19th century prince who lived a charmed life, nicknamed by his sisters as “Il Magnifico.” The namesake sparkler is done in a Brut Nature style, 18 months on the lees and is possessive of a distinctive grapefruit liqueur. The vines grown on limestone-based soil and this is clearly picked on acidity, in the first to second week of September. Il Maginifico may not carry the weight or tone of Hadyn’s The Creation but it is a most excellent Blanc de Blancs composition. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017  #esterhazy @esterhazywein  austrianwine  Esterhazy Wein  @NaturalVines  @oesterreichwein  @AustrianWine  @BirgittaSamavar  Marzia Gallo  @austrianwine

Pearl Morissette Chardonnay Cuvée Dix Neuvième 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (303602Winery, $38.20, WineAlign)

It’s never easy to follow up greatness, even for this top quality Niagara chardonnay and yet I am almost ready to believe that this Dix-Neuvième delivers more richness of fruit than its predecessor. The stoicism lost from 2013 is woven texture gained, here in a tapestry of pure chardonnay fruit, beeswaxy, faint honey and an almost imperceptible reductive environment. Francois Morissette and Brent Rowland clearly had texture earmarked as the raison d’être for this ’14, almost to a fault but the result is bloody delicious. No Pearl Morissette wine ever gave of itself so young, so fast. Immediate gratification be darned there will be five blessed textured years ahead. And then the honey will set in. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted June and July 2017  pearlmorissette  @PearlMorissette  @lassvet  Pearl Morissette

Domaine Laroche Les Vaudevey Chablis Premier Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (416057, Agent, $38.95, WineAlign)

A compressed chardonnay that strikes as a passion play between herbs and limestone and no surprise that the spoils go to the latter. The citrus is gassy, rising, bathed in atmosphere. The structure is predicated on stone, rock and struck flint. Chablis of metal and essential minerality, discovered and defined. This slow-ripened chardonnay will evolve one year for every month contributed by its growing cycle. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted June 2016 and July 2017  #domainelaroche  selectwinemoments  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines  Domaine Laroche, Chablis 

Mackenzie Brisbois, Trail Estate Winery

Trail Estate Chardonnay Unfiltered 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $39.00, WineAlign)

Auspicious beginnings transcend the customary for Trail’s winemaker Mackenzie Brisbois, case in point exhibit A with her first fledged County chardonnay, a whole cluster pressed, native yeasts and full malolactic beauty. Only a single barrel was made of this really tight, taut and youthfully vituperative one but it will mature, self-reflect and turn into a respectful and generous wine. There is a toasty note that currently smoulders in the glass but that too will gently peel away. The terrific render of acidity couples at present and will melt with the rest of the intensities. This is the estate’s first kick at this County cru, “things are going great, and they’re only getting better.” The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  @TrailEstateWinery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, (276261, $39.20, WineAlign)

Unction and creaminess, lost in a chardonnay dream because to nose it’s a sweet, floral, demure thing. Lees apparent so you can smell the work in progress and feel the texture. But it’s wound loosely tight with just enough give to make it so readily available. Beautiful little wine though I can’t help but imagine there’s more single-focus structure than a blind taste wants to give. Hope to come across this hard to get beauty again someday soon. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted blind at NWAC17, June 2017 and #14c, July 2017  hidden bench  @HiddenBench  @Hidden.Bench

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Niagara Unfiltered 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (184432, $39.20, WineAlign)

Norman Hardie’s 2015 Niagara is a reductive yellow goddess dressed chardonnay, connected to the fullest of its fruit, (slowly developed) creamy malolactic, touchstone acidity and grape tannic ability. There is this understated feeling in the throes of richness that the winemaker and the place always seem to agree upon. The display window celebrates and proudly promotes the somewhereness of this ’15 chardonnay. It is never a matter of Niagara versus County, there is little substance to be found, nor is it a necessary point of discussion worth investigating. It’s just highway that separates the two. Both are children of the Norm, both deserving of estate credibility and here, with this next excellent Niagara, taking the Hardie progression one step further. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted June and July 2017  normanhardiewinery  normhardie  Norman Hardie  @NormanHardieWinery

Domaine De Mauperthuis Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (511071, $39.95, WineAlign)

Winemaker Stéphane Saillet’s is a highly compressed, pure and precise Montmains. No wood was used because of the vintage, a season from which the ripe and developed fruit could clearly defend and take care of itself. Carries the essential tenets of texture and chew. Stéphane notes that the challenged ’16 will have some barrel (foudres) because “in the beginning there was nothing,” an important omen with which to help reflect on the fantasy and fantastic effort found in his 2015. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  #mauperthuis  vinsdechablis  vinsdebourgogne  nicholaspearcewines  #Mauperthuis  @vinsdechablis  @VinsdeBourgogne  @Nicholaspearce_  Vins de Bourgogne / Burgundy wines  Nicholas Pearce

Malivoire Chardonnay Moira 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $39.95, WineAlign)

Moira delves much further into the spice with a wood feel into texture, piquancy, savour, sapidity and on repeat in all of the above. The length stretches further as a deeper, more intense expression of Beamsville Bench terroir. It will need to settle and integrate with another year in bottle. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  malivoire  shirazmottiar  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar  @MalivoireWine 

Lightfoot And Wolfville Chardonnay Ancienne 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

The name Ancienne and the proximate irony appraised is not lost for its translation as endemic or indigenous for wines made from Burgundian grape varieties raised on Nova Scotia soil. The sophomore chardonnay speaks in a vernacular a year to the wiser but at the expense of excitement, which is actually a good thing. A step back taken will result in two going forward, as I shall explain. The same regime exercised mimics the ’13, of 20 per cent new, 18 months in barrel, but a slight course altered with some reductive play in ’14, as an experiment but also as a plan. There seems to be more lees richness and spice notes that flit like direct darts on the palate. Different clones are harvested at different times, so now the vinifications are staggered and layered, which really shows on the stratified and almost germinating palate. Another year older allows these vines to bring diversified variegation, more Nova Scotia and as a consequence, less winemaking. The growth here is fascinating and enlightening. In the interim it may compromise the flavour profile and the wow factor but in the long run it is structure, longevity and impressibility that will give the green light to estate grown, Minas Basin success. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted June 2017   lwwines  jhortonns  rachelhopelightfoot  winesofns  @lwwines  @rachel_hope  @WinesofNS  @lightfootandwolfvillewines  Rachel Lightfoot  @winesofns

Bachelder Wismer Vineyard #2 “Foxcroft Block” Chardonnay 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (512178, Winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

Deeper and deeper into the micro terroir we go, with thanks to the monk himself so strike me down as a cool climate instigator if you must but Thomas Bachelder takes on the challenge, fresh and new as ever. This Wismer Block dubbed #2 is purely and expressly Foxcroft, a divided up for purchase and worked by many vineyard. Few do it justice like the unstressed symbiotic relationship between Bachelder and grower Craig Wismer. From the ideal session of 2013 we have creamy and cracked, fragmented mineral intensity in opposite attitude to Wismer-Parke but more on the fleshy and structured side. The wood is bigger and more integrated, the flesh ripping and of the sort of musculature that shows no aggression nor needs any explanation. It’s just big and beautiful, not to mention an ambassador for cool. Hello world. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted June and July 2017  bachelder_wines  liffordgram  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON  @BachelderWines  @liffordwineandspirits

Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Blanc De Blanc ‘Carte Blanche’ 2012, Short Hills Bench, Ontario (Winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

Reserved for Ontario sparkling but indicative of a bench-steppe foothills style because it just has that spark. Very much a ball of tart and compressed energy and so intense. A middle of the norm dosage at 8 g/L RS is managed in perfect oscillate with equal and opposing acidity at 7.3 TA. Such precision, ease and high quality serviceability is the equanimity quotient delivered by the estimable work ethic of winemaker Sandrine Bourcier. It boils down to recognition. The benchmark for Niagara Peninsula year-dated sparkling wine juices ripeness out of this warm vintage to perpetuate Cuvée Catharine’s unparalleled fizz consistency. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  henryofpelham  @HenryofPelham @SpeckBros  Henry Pelham

Lightfoot & Wolfville Blanc De Blanc Extra Brut 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

Josh Horton and Rachel Lightfoot presented an early, less leesy glimpse of their 100 per cent estate chardonnay at i4c in July of 2016. It was a different animal than this recently disgorged (late February/early March) sparkling wine. The Extra Brut lives up to its designation, from fruit grown on the shores of the Minas Basin under the auspices of a markedly warm year with exceptional phenolic ripeness and 25 per cent malolactic gain. The time relative to texture lees accumulation is approximately 40 months and it’s an accurate representation of Nova Scotia low and slow. The flavours are wisely developed ripe and spicy, leaning into a moment or two of oxygenation, but seemingly richer than the amount of lees time that was given. Now emerging from the shell of not just a warm but a great chardonnay year (as previously proven by the Ancienne released two years ago). The notion here is of a sparkling wine that has been brought home, a B de B that you need to get to know. There are layers and layers of character that fold and unfold. The precision, focus and rendering is citrus tamed, mouthfeel in perpetual expansion and contraction, length linear and elastic. And it’s just the beginning. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted June and July 2017  lwwines  jhortonns  rachelhopelightfoot  winesofns  @lwwines  @rachel_hope  @WinesofNS  @lightfootandwolfvillewines  Rachel Lightfoot  @winesofns

Bachelder Chardonnay Johnson Vineyard 2013, Yamhill Carlton District, Oregon (416644, Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

The best of the barrels, always remember the soil, the soil Johnson Vineyard chardonnay will send you spiralling deep into thought, like it or not. It’s origins in Jory, sedimentary soils draw energy from a source unseen, dug down into where the ancients dwell. Thomas Bachelder monkifies the soil plant matrix made to transmit minerality. “It’s as much about photosynthesis in the new world but minerality is still apart of it. Jory soils in Oregon bring a salty tang, a savour. It’s true.” Bachelder speaks of a wisdom once revered, now questioned and he’s fine with needing to work for a living. The Johnson chardonnay is beautifully tart, rich and complex, biting, full of energy, so cool, taut, structured and even still a bit reductive. But it really is pressed, juiced and spirited with lime, for success and to linger, for a decade post harvest, perhaps for even longer a quality length of time. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  bachelder_wines  liffordgram  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON  @BachelderWines  @liffordwineandspirits

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Sans Soufre 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

Says Norm with matter of factness, as he always does, “it’s the regular Niagara chardonnay, but without sulphur.” So you ask the question up front? Is the unsulphured so different than the other? To the naked senses, no. The charm, power and generosity are all there. It took a full year to pass malolactic inspection. So why do it? Because it reminds of 2012, same slow malo, same deferential and determined kind of wine and the answer comes from something Norm says. “I didn’t have the guts in those days.” But he has them now and yet the decisions imparted this Sans Soufre will be different, with more guts and glory, say in 2022. Perhaps there is a softness about this naked one, something cotton candy about its aromatics and its texture. It’s fine-spun, ethereal and dissipating. It does not argue but you sense it’s possessive of an organized, controlled tension. But don’t be thinking this isn’t a planned piece of parenthood. Did I mention the tannic presence on the palate? How about the wind-up, into tart and the stiff breeze that blows through as if it’s already turning to fall. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted Twice, June and July 2017  normanhardiewinery  @normhardie  Norman Hardie

Tawse Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2013, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $45.95, WineAlign)

The temptation and the desire to compare Robyn’s Block and the other Tawse chardonnays is unavoidable but in 2013 it’s a fruitless exercise. Neither warmth, tropical fruit, cold, rain, terpenes or high acidity are hallmark traits of Robyn’s Block 2013. So what is? When I tasted through Robyn’s barrels with winemaker Paul Pender back in April of 2014, the Mercurey (one year-old, CLL toast) from the oldest (32 years) vines off of the richest site worked wonders in tandem with new oak. Very primary, fermenting notes foretold of a reigned in, restrained Robyn. The Mercurey (new) barrel gifted tang and girth into which the barrel disappears, with sappy toast on the back end. It too was quite young in its evolution but was rich, thick and dense. The Céres (Mineral) barrel brought exclamatory fruit and was ready to drink. All together and three years later these barrels have conspired for all of the above but if I had to sum it up in five words or less I’d say Robyn is “full of energy, texture and beans.” She will turn out creamy notes as the decade turns but always maintain her sense of restraint, running sap and fleshy tone. The wine is nothing if not a fascinating introspection into the history and the future of this block.  Drink 2017-2023. Tasted April and July 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Sperling Vineyards Blanc De Blancs Brut Nature 2013, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (511329, Agent, $47.00, WineAlign)

There is no dosage in this directly motivational Blanc de Blancs and plenty of potential palate weight with thanks to 30 months spent on the lees. There is something top single-vineyard cru Alsatian about the savoury and searing coolness in this style, as if it were more than just the sum of chardonnay parts, like some hypothetical pinot blanc and perhaps auxerrois. There is some reductiveness, a lovely washed rind cheese, lemon scrape melted into curd and fine bitters. The flavours are really quite lemony tart. Striking really. School of Cool moderator Karen MacNeil described this like “a nun in catholic school, severe and a bit starched. I’d like to try it a bit sweeter, to mollify the tension.” Though the consensus is one that sees it under-dosed, you have to admire Ann Sperling’s “decision based on lees contact time.” To make it longer. The sharp, angular edges are a by-product of its aggressive nature but like sémillon in its lean and gaunt youth this B de B will develop some faux honey and petrol with age. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted twice, July 2017  @SperlingVyds  @AnnSperling  @CRUOntario  sperlingvineyards  cruwine  Sperling Vineyards  Ann Sperling

Stratus Chardonnay 2014, VQA Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario (307645, Agent, $48.20, WineAlign)

The Stratus 2014 is more reductive than usual, in its case more of a vintage-related affair than others. The “Burgundy method” is employed, but in a “Niagara style” notes winemaker J-L Groux,  that is with native yeasts and a pick that can’t be too early. The wine saw nine months in (25-50 per cent new) oak. This ’14 is Groux’s last of the chardonnay mohicans because in 2015 it will be bottled with lees. This ’14 is nothing if not bloody delicious, ripe orchard fruit swelling, of mild acidity and seamless texture. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May and July 2017  stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay 2013, VQA Four Mile Creek, Ontario (366500, Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Always Ontario’s outlier, eccentric and non-conformist chardonnay and I say this with complimentary, best of intention flattery. The 2013 vintage is simply chivalrous to chardonnay and in Poetica’s corner, a perfect calm case of preux meets elegante. Here is a chardonnay of inherent oxidative wisdom, from cloud cover, cool, long breaths of Niagara air well into the elongated autumn and the address for what I refer to as “the age apparent one.” The iconoclast Poetica ideal conforms because it is matched with equal breadth by richness of fruit and confirms the way Ann Sperling makes her signature wine. Tasted blind my first guess would put this at five years old because of the exuding warmth so 2010 might just be the order. A 2012 Bench chardonnay might have also been the answer. But with Poetica the promise is like Meursault with uptown fruit, honey, vanilla, caramel, a Niagara vapour and ethanol. Such a telling display that only Poetica can play. Drink 2016-2024.  Tasted October 2016 and July 2017  southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @TheLivingVine  @SouthbrookWine   @SouthbrookWine  The Living Vine inc.

Viñas Ventisquero Tara Chardonnay 2014, Atacamas, Casablanca Valley, Chile (511337, Agent, $53.00, WineAlign)

Chile’s Atacama Valley frontier is one of the world’s great terroir expansions, a limestone soil-based flat, even further north than the Limari valley. Ventisquero’s winemaker Felipe Tosso has said that Atacama “breaks all the paradigms of what has been produced in the central-southern valleys of Chile.” The salinity in the land translates to notes in chardonnay of almost no precedence, like salty cotton candy and a fineness of acidity singular in chemical design and how it feels in the mouth. It’s like sucking on a stone lozenge that never dissolves. It’s relentless in its pursuit of fruit. Flavours coagulate liquid almond joy and transparent bitters but there is also a sweetness without definition, a simple limestone syrup that melts into the saltiness of the wine. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  vventisquero  univinscanada  wines_of_chile_canada  @vventisquero  @UNIVINS  @WinesofChile  @VentisqueroWines  @UnivinsCanada  @WinesOfChile

Charline Drappier

Champagne Drappier Blanc De Blancs NV, Champagne, France (599860, Agent, $54.95, WineAlign)

Made with five per cent pinot blanc this faintly oxidatively-styled Blanc de Blancs is gingery-leathery and felt as if by extended skin contact. It’s both tannic and orange pith spritzy, also mixed in with grapefruit and lemon. Twenty-four lees-affected months bring body that is fleshy, corporeal and with acidity in charge on the palate. Quite a full fizz with some preserved fruit attentiveness. The dosage is healthy but simply flavour gifting at 7.1 RS because the sugar is a combination of beet and cane aged in oak for 10-15 years. It’s a special Drappier liquor dosage developed at the winery. What it brings is not just sweetness but a complex sweetener that has evolved and developed over time while it has aged. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted twice with Charline Drappier at #14c, July 2017 #ChampagneDrappier  @FWMCan  champagne_drappier  champagnedrappier  fwmcan  Champagne Drappier  Charline Dppr  @FWMCan

Ravine Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay 2014, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

The Reserve is 100 per cent estate fruit that spent 18 months in (50 per cent new) barrel. As it’s both barrel fermented and aged the variegation locks the fruit in so bloody tight so even now it’s reductive, smoky and flinty. A mineral chardonnay needs balance from over the top fruit and so track record, acumen and love will have it so. Marty Werner and Ben Minaker’s is a big, summery and gold platinum expression, very expressive, the two-lb steamed in seaweed lobster chardonnay, seemingly Meursault but just as likely from California. But as Ravine’s Reserve on the St. David’s Bench it is purely Niagara Peninsula. Fruit intensity, extract and controlled oxygenation shows off the best of what these men can do. It speaks to their efforts, knowledge accumulation, trials and finally to the culmination of their stamina. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  ravinevineyard  marty_werner  benminaker23  @RavineVineyard  @marty_werner  @BMinaker23  Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery  Martin Werner  Ben Minaker

Adam Mariani, Scribe Winery

Scribe Chardonnay 2014, Carneros, California (511139, Agent, $55.00, WineAlign)

Adam Mariani raised his 2014 in concrete and though we are distracted and of course fully willing to think about the fruit (especially in contrast to his Skin Contact chardonnay) it is the texture that grabs most attention. That this solicits older world comparisons is hard to avoid, but it’s not a Burgundian thematic. Like the garnatxa by Ramon Roqueta Segalés of Domaine Lafou, Scribe’s is a wine that has succeeded in mastering the oxidation process and the scents are of ripe peach, fresh, without overdeveloped sugars but instead a sprinkling of ocean salt. Finishes with a savoury mix of lime, tonic and the liquor of distilled flowers. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  scribe winery  nicholaspearcewines  @scribewinery  @Nicholaspearce_  Scribe Winery  Nicholas Pearce

Familia Torres Chardonnay Milmanda 2014, Catalunya, Spain (332171, Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

Miguel Torres Jr. tells us his wine comes from a great white wine vintage; cool and rainy, though not great for reds. “I don’t believe in miracles from the vineyard. You have to do some things in the winery,” he adds, like the use of bigger (300L) barrels and a 50 per cent malolactic goal. His chardonnay is a juicy, terpenic, honorary cool climate Canadian. That’s not to say it isn’t barrel rich, but it too speaks a language of the lively, crisp, crunchy and bloody delicious. This is full, satisfying, spicy and buttery teasing chardonnay out of Catalunya and few gallop along with such equine gait and grace, at least not from Spain, without either softening like butter or hardening like stone. Here the twain is met. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  torreswines  @FWMCan  @TorresWines  fwmcan  @bodegastorres  @FWMCan

Scribe Skin Fermented Chardonnay 2015, Carneros, California (511147, Agent, $63.00, WineAlign)

Scribe Winery’s Adam Mariani introduces his antithetical Californian from the Sonoma side of cooler Carneros up on Arrowhead Mountain in the northern part of the region, planted in 2007 abutting the Mayacamas range on volcanic soils. The grapes are skin-fermented cold (in the farenheit 50’s) with native yeasts for five to six weeks until mid-December but over the past several vintages they (the winemaking team) have slowly gained the confidence to get them above 100 days. One bottle (served too warm) is amiss and oxidative and this really accentuates the skin-settling tannins on the palate. A second is beautifully lively, tannins a bit tamed, acidity in tact and fruit concerned and even obsessed with all things lemon. The aging is done in concrete egg and with a correct bottle this is not oxidized, nor is it an orange wine but it most certainly is a Carneros expression of great interest. It should be dealt with young. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  scribe winery  nicholaspearcewines  @scribewinery  @Nicholaspearce_  Scribe Winery  Nicholas Pearce

Artesa Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2014, Carneros, Napa Valley, California (457143, Agent, $67.00, WineAlign)

Artesa or artisan, from the Catalan, an affirmation of style gifted in name from the Barcelona family Raventos. This chardonnay from the base of Mt. Veeder is 100 per cent estate fruit, adjacent Hyde Vineyards, all hillside sits of elevation, sun and under cover of omniscent fog blowing in from San Pablo Bay. The character is unmistakable French (50 per cent new) cream barrel warm and buttered, yet young and still a bit closed for business. The 16 months in wood requires double that to integrate but a fine mineral streak cuts through the caramel. Nothing shocking mind you, grace meets weight and toasted chestnut melds into sweet marzipan. The quality of fruit is unquestionably high and the seamlessness a given. The style can be yours. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted July 2017  artesawinery  #andrewpellerimportagency  @Artesa  @APImportAgency  @MerSoleilVineyard  @Artesa

Chamisal Vineyards Chardonnay Chamise 2014, Edna Valley, California (511212, Agent, $86.00, WineAlign)

The aromatics are slow to reveal but if at first they are mildly mired in solder there is this sweet basil-herbal and lemon-balmy calmness on the entry. Takes some moments and then opens to a creamy, barrel-sweetened, tart and layered chardonnay. Looked at blind I’d certainly peg this as warmer climate, New Zealand perhaps but more likely and gracefully California. Indeed the Chamisal-Chamise of Edna Valley origins completes the picture. The first vineyard planted in the Edna Valley in 1973 near the Pacific and a long temperate growing season adds up to low and slow phenolic developed chardonnay. The warm vintage plus calcareous, clay-rich soil develops further flavour. Shy no more, the namesake flowering plant Adenostoma fasciculatum (chamise or greasewood) native to California bounds away with complex flavours. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  chamisalvyd  #andrewpellerimportagency  @ChamisalVyd  @APImportAgency  @Chamisal.Vineyards  @APImportAgency

Vasse Felix Chardonnay Heytesbury 2015, Margaret River, Western Australia (674648, $91.00,  WineAlign)

Heytesbury is Virginia Willcock’s top chardonnay and while it is one of Australia’s most iconic wines, it may never be made the same way twice. In 2015 the élèvage is in French oak for nine months (57 per cent new and 43, one to two years old) but no malolactic was encouraged. That’s a non-committal way of saying (and Virginia did in fact say) there was no malo in 2015 simply because it was not a vintage in which the acidity needed to be tamed. So with fruit so pure, strong and expressive, what else is there to say? Simply that you would be an idiot to tire of a fresh herb garden, blue slate shoes, ripe pomelo, a wedge of smoked cheddar, fresh scones and a crunch of mellifluous honeycomb. Heytesbury will gift all of this and more. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017  vassefelixwines  margaretriver  @vassefelix  @MargaretRiver  @MargaretRiverWi  @vassefelixwines  @MargaretRiverWineRegion  @margaretriverwines1

Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Estate Blanc De Blancs 2013, Nova Scotia, (Winery$119.50, WineAlign)

Tasted from a bottle disgorged in May 2017, there alights a plugged-in, three-pronged, dazed, charged and enchanted energy about the Bridge’s ’13 Blanc de Blancs. The history of go it alone pure chardonnay is a relatively short one for the estate so this quickly makes up for lost time or rather with haste sets the timer and heads out at first light. “Like sittin’ on pins and needles, things fall apart, it’s scientific.” Wild, of talking heads temper and yeasts, done up in demi-muids, with a wilder secondary fermentative push riding on the coattails of the primary fermentation. Everything in this wine is a productive child of the vineyard, of no third party sugars or consultations. “How do you do that without making a Pétillant Naturel,” I wonder aloud. It’s a second ferment, non-contiguous is the reason, even if the former is both influencer and mentor to the latter. It certainly falls under the category of “micro-cuvée. Like its cousin and predecessor (Blanc de Noirs 2011), this ’13 BdeB is mired intensely inward within its own specificity and is not so much a sparkling wine with competitive soul. It is a pure representative of chardonnay grown in Nova Scotia for one purpose. So let’s talk about true stories and wild, wild life. “You get on board anytime you like.” Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2017  benjaminbridge  caveman__jones   winesofn  @Benjamin_Bridge  @benjaminbridgevineyards  @WinesofNS  @benjaminbridgevineyards  @winesofns

Cuvée des Amis in grand format from le grand ami @normhardie at an #i4c @coolchardonnay grand tasting dances and trips the light fantastic with unconscionable concentration.

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Cuvée Des Amis 2014, Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $150.00, 1500ml, WineAlign)

As exceptional as chardonnay may have seemed from out of the 2013 Ontario vintage you haven’t lived or loved until you get a taste of (only in magnum format) Norm Hardie’s 2014 Cuvées des Amis. This chardonnay attacks and ascends, recalibrating the inner workings of the brain and how it develops conceptualization. It is a state of the art and all-knowing elixir to remind that ’13 was a vintage with profitable yields and a generously stretched canvas on which to practice on, for when things begin to get real. The CdeA spent 18 months in barrel, the first 12 (in 35 per cent new), the next six in neutral and the last six in stainless steel on the fine lees. The spin class in the mouth manages agility, dextrous, furtive movement and completes many pirouettes. The dance is pure joy but the intensity is equally to disturbingly intrusive, suggesting more settling time is necessary. The flavour pearls are delicate and come straight from the oyster so they carry salinity, power and brine. Pure lemon essence is received by intravenous injection. Sumptuous is translated from Hardie-speak as a four-letter, Prince Edward County word. It doesn’t get more real than right here, with the best fruit, the tripping of the light fantastic, previously unheard and unseen unconscionable concentration. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted twice, June and July 2017  normanhardiewinery  @normhardie  Norman Hardie

Took all night but it was so worth it. Welcome to #i4c17 @coolchardonnay #ilivechardonnay

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

The future is now for Lightfoot and Wolfville Vineyards

In the throes of judging 1,700 plus Canadian wines at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada I slipped away to reconnect with Mike Lightfoot at his property in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. The last time I paid the family a visit, Mike, Jocelyn, Rachel and winemaker Josh Horton were planning, scheming and on the cusp of breaking new ground, figuratively and literally speaking. The new Lightfoot & Wolfville winery facility was beginning to take cerebral, engineered, augurate and anticipatory shape. It’s now well into the building phase, in fact, at some point this summer L & W’s unprecedented facility will open to the public. When it does it will change the wine landscapes that include more than just Wolfville, the Gaspereau, Annapolis Valleys and Nova Scotia. It will reset the needle, compass and artfully strategized standard for Canadian wineries everywhere.

Related – Consider the Gaspereau Valley

Mike and Jocelyn have taken a once thriving apple farm and turned its rolling hills into Nova Scotia’s most progressive organic and biodynamic winery while also perpetuating the raising of animals in the heritage meets modern agriculturist way. In 2014 I made the following ambitious statement. “Lightfoot & Wolfville will take everything anyone has ever thought about the Nova Scotia wine industry and turn it on its head. Hybrids and local varieties will continue to be a part of the stratagem. In the unpredictable climate of Nova Scotia’s wine growing regions that is a necessity but it’s what chardonnay and pinot noir will do that will put the province on the map and the world’s stage.” Mean it.

Cellar dining space at Lightfoot & Wolfville

Related – Great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Nova Scotia?

The external vineyard planted near Avonport called “Oak Island” is perched on a hill with a view of the Minas Basin at the head of the Gaspereau Valley. “Le Corton,” as it is known, or as I like to call it,  “Oak Isle Knoll” is where consulting oenologist Peter Gamble has placed 100 per cent certainty in the future success of Vinifera grapes. Vigorous vines will increase the possibilities for chardonnay, sparkling plus a host of expected and eclectic varieties, like riesling, sauvignon blanc, gewürztraminer, chenin blanc, chasselas and scheurebe.

Mike and winemaker Josh Horton ushered me through a tour of the new facility. A state of the art retail shop, quick production kitchen, al fresco pizza oven and a subterranean cellar, private dining facility and commercial kitchen to make iron chefs drool. The mammoth-sized, reemployed beams alone are pieces of reclaimed and refashioned wood to send one into a state of awe. It felt as though I were walking through the massive hull and underbelly of a great romantic period ship.

Al Fresco Pizza Oven

Mike Lightfoot has spent the past 15 years watching Nova Scotia’s wine industry transform from an unknown cottage entity to a destination that attracts thousands of visitors, heavily weighted to the summer months. He is drawing on experience but also careful to avoid repeating the mistakes some of his peers have made in trying to build and develop wine tourism at their nearby facilities. He is also grateful for what they have accomplished and how they have opened the door for the possibility of L & W’s imminent operation. Mike points out how in July and August the trail of cars moving along the Evangeline Trail is endless, cars that travel right past his property. Truly a case of “if you build it they will come.”

I sat down with Mike and Josh to taste 10 wines, some new and some revisits, for perspective and to expound on some personal theories of L & W relativity. Josh Horton is coming into his own as a winemaker and just in the nick of time. The nigh fact of this property’s history and ineluctable expansion will weigh on the ancienne ideology but Horton’s de facto ability and unaffected personality equip him with the tools to face the challenge head on. The future is now for Lightfoot and Wolfville Vineyards.

Sparkling wine you need to know @lwwines Blanc de Blanc Extra Brut 2013, from the shores of the #minasbasin #annapolisvalley #novascotia

Lightfoot & Wolfville Blanc De Blanc Extra Brut 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada ($45.00, WineAlign)

Josh Horton and Rachel Lightfoot presented an early, less leesy glimpse of their 100 per cent estate chardonnay at i4c in July of 2016. It was a different animal than this recently disgorged (late February/early March) sparkling wine. The Extra Brut lives up to its designation, from fruit grown on the shores of the Minas Basin under the auspices of a markedly warm year with exceptional phenolic ripeness and 25 per cent malolactic gain. The time relative to texture lees accumulation is approximately 40 months and it’s an accurate representation of Nova Scotia low and slow. The flavours are wisely developed ripe and spicy, leaning into a moment or two of oxygenation, but seemingly richer than the amount of lees time that was given. Now emerging from the shell of not just a warm but a great chardonnay year (as previously proven by the Ancienne released two years ago). The notion here is of a sparkling wine that has been brought home, a B de B that you need to get to know. There are layers and layers of character that fold and unfold. The precision, focus and rendering is citrus tamed, mouthfeel in perpetual expansion and contraction, length linear and elastic. And it’s just the beginning. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted June 2017

Lightfoot & Wolfville Pinot Noir Ancienne 2014, Nova Scotia, Canada ($40.00, WineAlign)

Pinot Noir Ancienne is a product of a wild ferment and here in 2014 is possessive of a larger percentage of estate fruit, but still with a significant portion skimmed from (Al) McIntyre’s Blomidon vineyard. The typical Nova Scotia growing season means this was harvested during the last week of October and at approximately 20.5-21.5 brix, but of a lower crop level. Like the inaugural 2013 this still carries the elegant, highly cool climate provincial stamp, not skinny or lean by any means but certainly lithe and helped calmly and curatively along by 3rd and 4th fill neutral oak. The ’15 will be bottled in July, which will be 100 per cent estate fruit. Here is the second image of Nova Scotia pinot, built upon a well-designed foundation and an architectural struggle in search of structure. Ancienne is old-school, traditional, hand-made, artisanal. It is a wine that others will not yet know what to do with but the launching point is precise, progressive, poignant and teeming with wonder meets possibility. The fruit purity and transparency speaks to the honesty delivered. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted June 2017

Lightfoot & Wolfville Pinot Noir Ancienne 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada ($40.00, WineAlign)

Retrospection, reflection and what we know now places this so obviously in the exact spot where it began. So now we establish a minimum five years going forward to reach the sweetest of sweet spots. This now gives perspective and a reference point for where ’14 is and will be going forward. This 2013 is less immediate, a wonder of first time luck, pomp and circumstance. It is nothing short of remarkable. Last tasted June 2017.

If de novo for Pinot Noir is to be found in Nova Scotia then count me in because the inaugural release from Lightfoot & Wolfville is the trailblazer for and from the extrinsic frontier. Tasting the painstakingly measured yet barely handled 2013 for the first time (from bottle) is like falling into a glass of Nova Scotia cherries. Somehow there is this simultaneous and virtual voyage abroad to imagine a comparison with Nuits-Saint-Georges, in its earth crusted, sanguine, welled up tension that begs questions and belies answers. A year yonder the taste from barrel and what can be said? Pinot Noir adjudicated, into a cortex of recognizable consciousness and thus into the natural Nova Scotia mystic. Ignore and forgive the dope of first returns, for no one could have imagined such ripeness and immediate gratification. Future releases will dial back in the name of structure. That said, in 2013 there is a red citrus, ferric debate that will send this to an exordium seven years down the road. Impossible inaugural release. Approximately 50 cases made. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted July 2015

Experiments are for more than sharing #perspective #teachingmoment #progress @lwwines #unfiltered

Lightfoot & Wolfville Chardonnay Ancienne 2014, Nova Scotia, Canada ($40.00, WineAlign)

The name Ancienne and the proximate irony appraised is not lost for its translation as endemic or indigenous for wines made from Burgundian grape varieties raised on Nova Scotia soil. The sophomore chardonnay speaks in a vernacular a year to the wiser but at the expense of excitement, which is actually a good thing. A step back taken will result in two going forward, as I shall explain. The same regime exercised mimics the ’13, of 20 per cent new, 18 months in barrel, but a slight course altered with some reductive play in ’14, as an experiment but also as a plan. There seems to be more lees richness and spice notes that flit like direct darts on the palate. Different clones are harvested at different times, so now the vinifications are staggered and layered, which really shows on the stratified and almost germinating palate. Another year older allows these vines to bring diversified variegation, more Nova Scotia and as a consequence, less winemaking. The growth here is fascinating and enlightening. In the interim it may compromise the flavour profile and the wow factor but in the long run it is structure, longevity and impressibility that will give the green light to estate grown, Minas Basin success. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted June 2017

Lightfoot & Wolfville Chardonnay Ancienne 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada ($40.00, WineAlign)

The ’13 seems to at first have really softened but that’s only relative to tasting it side by side with the 2014. It’s also leaner when considered side by each though still carries weight and creaminess on the palate. Winemaker Josh Horton also pours an unfiltered experimental bottle. It is so clean, almost indiscernible to the filtered ’13, except perhaps with more bite on the palate and yet less creaminess than the ’14.  Lasted Tasted June 2017.

Welcome to the new Chardonnay ethos, an east coast compages for la belle nouvelle écosse, the new borderland for Canadian vinifera. The respite found in Lightfoot & Wolfville’s first release is like breathing for the first time. As I noted a year ago while tasting through (mostly older) barrel trials, I have unearthed a Canadian winery animated in the architectural rendering of Premier Cru Chablis. Full textured, creamy aromatics, layers of lace and luxe, popping acidity and with length stretched to service now and later. Approximately 135 cases made. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted July 2015

Lightfoot & Wolfville Chardonnay Ancienne Reserve 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada ($56.00, WineAlign)

The Chardonnay was planted in 2009 in a block that sits on the crest of the hill on the Wolfville vineyard site and the Ancienne Reserve is a barrel selection more than anything. It sees an additional six (to 24) months and because one of the barrels was new, it’s therefore 50 per cent new. Now tasting this for the second time a year later (the first time being at i4c 2016), the wood is melting and dissolving so all is coming together, but the unmistakeable L & W acidity meets Nova Scotia vines spice and bite is all over the palate. There is length here to last a decade. Never ending. Nothing if not a coup for new world/cold climate/NS chardonnay. You will not understand unless you taste it. Consulting oenologist Peter Gamble and his protégés Josh Horton and Rachel Lightfoot have allowed the fruit to speak without encumbrance. This chardonnay is neither stark nor beyond ripe and oak has been used with terrific restraint. I am not sure how Gamble could have known it would work but to a veteran of decades of Canadian harvests, it must be an absolute revelation. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted June 2017

Lightfoot & Wolfville Tidal Bay 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada ($22.00, WineAlign)

The blend is l’acadie, geisenheim, chardonnay and riesling plus a smidgen of vidal. Just a great year, the l’acadie coming from rocky soil and the difference maker in the use of riesling. There is some residual sulphur, still activated citrus tablet and its aromas are propitiously fresh, from lean to piercing. The palate carries terrific texture and flesh, great citrus and a bit of unction. It even suggests fleshy citrus and stone fruit, with just that minor note of peach to make this so drinkable. The vinifera provides the structure while l’acadie is the back bone and this has plenty of it. The reams of citrus are simply striking. The better to best yet, a no doubter and without argument. For Tidal Bay it’s almost perfect. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, at L & W and blind at NWAC17, June 2017

Lightfoot & Wolfville Schuerebe 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada (WineAlign)

The schuerebe comes from up on the Oak Isle in Avonport, now just past the stage of baby vines, this the introduction as far as a style is concerned. That style combines elevated sugar and acidity. It’s highly floral and of incredible acidity, from vines that ripen later than riesling, though the plants are young of just a few years. Schuerebe is a wine that can beat its own sibling chardonnay in a wine competition, with some fat and flamboyance, alcohol near 9.5 per cent and those sugars (whose actual number is pointless) will track across some complex notions and age three to six years with ease. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted June 2017

Lightfoot & Wolfville Pinot Noir Rosé 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada ($28.00, WineAlign)

The Rosé from pinot noir is 100 per cent estate varietal fruit destined for this purpose and not from a bleed, or as one. At $28 it doesn’t hit the same $20 Rosé crowd, here dry, saline, south of France ringing and as a ringer. The notes are distinctly lime and grapefruit, floral but not quite meunier floral. “When pinot noir can give you structure you keep making it this way,” notes winemaker Josh Horton. Good plan. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted June 2017

Lightfoot & Wolfville Pinot Noir Rosé 2015, Nova Scotia, Canada ($28.00, WineAlign)

L & W’s will surely appear, perform and consummate as the lightest of all Rosés in any Canadian flight and as pinot noir it suffices to say all that needs in terms of rusty, rustic and taut. There is good salinity, perhaps one or two elevated blowsy notes of sulphur but all is forgiven in consideration of fine precision, presence and lightness of being. The minor leesy and lactic fromage melts into acidity and tasted blind it could be the closest of Moira cousins, à la Malivoire. Lemon and lime finish and very long. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted June 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Catch, taste and release Collection Bellenum by Nicolas Potel

To better days & retro négoce #burgundy with @RochedeBellene via @Nicholaspearce_ #nicholaspotel #bourgogne #meursault #santenay #monthelie #pommard #volnay #chambollemusigny #gevreychambertin #closdelaroche

Some tasting notes are easier than others to compose and others just need time. You can write some on the spot and you can sit on others until such time when their clarity is revealed. I’ve said it a hundred times. Great wines write their own reviews. We are merely the conduit to bring the notes to light.

Nicholas Pearce has a terrific relationship with Nicolas Potel. Agent and Burgundy producer, négoce, man of leisure. Diplomat and ambassador extraordinaire for the wines of Burgundy; Villages, Premier Cru and Grand Cru. Pearce held a tasting back in February for Potel’s Collection Bellenum. If there is anyone in Burgundy that Nicolas does not know I can’t say but in addition to running his own Domaine de Bellene and négoce Maison Roche de Bellene, Potel has drawn on his secret resources to deliver older parcels of Burgundy from producers who somehow hid these top vineyard gems from the world.

This tasting was simply ridiculous and I can’t help wonder how the universe aligns to bring such things to fruition. Some of the wines are priced beyond recognition while others are almost too good to be true. The LCBO is now purchasing four wines; Roche De Bellene Santenay 1er Cru Beaurepaire 1998, Roche de Bellene Monthelie Villages 2005, Roche De Bellene Chambolle-Musigny Villages 2001 and Roche De Bellene Gevrey-Chambertin Villages 2001. I tasted and reviewed 13 wines that day. Here are the notes.

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Santenay Premier Cru Beaurepaire 1998, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $64.95, WineAlign)

It’s always a gift to taste older Burgundy and righteously so from 1998. From the “Collection Bellenum” by Nicolas Potel and a nearly 20-year old bold and intact Santenay from what began as a surly vintage. Remnants of certainly once firm, gritty, rustic red fruit now cured like pinot noir gravlax meets bresaola. Carries through with a musty tone and still the acidity rages and circles the fruit wagon. Still some tannin (say, four years left) and a wisdom Santenay would not always have been able to foreshadow. Great gamey finish with Burgundian voice and vice grip tension. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Monthelie 2005, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $101.95, WineAlign)

Monthelie 2005 is the most acetic and volatile but that’s only by way of a side by side by each comparison to ’02 and 04. In many ways this shines the brightest and as the youngest it does so with the highest degree of freshness, though that is certainly not what was expected. One must realize that growing up is not yet done and this wine has simply not crossed the threshold into its older Burgundy self. It could be considered 2011 the way it speaks of red fruit and cool, elevated tones, as if no time has passed. Tannins are chalkier and offer up more limestone, red liquid ruby sensation. This Monthelie is the conundrum. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Monthelie 2004, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $101.95, WineAlign)

Monthelie 2004 is the brooding brother of the three Monthelie samples (along with ’02 and ’05), deep, rich, hematic, ferric and funky. Volatility is a major part of its character but the fruit still stands to tell an ’04 tale. Not the most ethereal of vintages as seen here but certainly full of energy and longevity. This lingers in a grippy way the others do not, so it has that going for it, which is nice. It will drink this way for five years more, at a very basic minimum. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Monthelie 2002, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $101.95, WineAlign)

Since this Monthelie is assessed in a ’02-’04-’05 mini flight, it can’t be helped but to discuss one in relation to the other two. It is noted that 2002 and 2005 share a heat-spiked affinity but it is this ’02 that carries it effortlessly and with more slow-hung and expertly seasoned cure than volatility. Burgundy as it is seen through Monthelie eyes is accomplished with utter purity, clarity and wisdom. This has ancient character in its DNA and 15 years of potential energy still coursing through its veins. So bright and at the same time indelibly dense and compressed. Beauty is in the eye of one who relishes but does not get hung up by dwelling in the past. Tremendous wine. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Volnay Premier Cru Clos Des Chenes 2005, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $190.95, WineAlign)

Clos des Chenes in the capable hands of Nicolas Potel ties a nice little ribbon around an oak old tree because it’s a very pretty Volnay, so floral as per the exercise and those subtle notes that make you think about fennel, graphite and the Burgundy bush equivalent of garrigue. This is extracted, rich and full of red berries (namely raspberry). It’s firm as much as the fruit requests it to be and the acidity is beautifully round. The grip in the tannin indicates many years ahead. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Volnay 1er Cru Clos Des Chenes 2002, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $183.95, WineAlign)

From 2002 it is Potel’s Clos des Chenes that acts the age apparent one but the threshold is far from breached or really at this 15 year stage, even reached. Nor is the fruit to tannin inversion in danger of a transgression. The floral Volnay component is reduced, layered and dipped into cherry-ripened liqueur. The tannin in this vintage runs across that impressing line from sweet to aggressive. I would have my pleasure with this Volnay over the next two or three juicy and grippy years. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Pommard Premier Cru Les Pézerolles 2005, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $209.95, WineAlign)

The vineyard Les Pézerolles is widely considered the finest in Pommard and the vintage 2005 one of the decade’s best (along with 2002 and 2009). Potel’s work here is with a pinot noir still youthful but not as young as the Monthelie. This Pommard is firm and separates itself as it needs to be, with subtle hints of sanguine and bitters. This could also be assessed as quinine and savour but also of a richness that reveals some kind of chocolate menthol aroma. Not a gritty but certainly a rigid Pommard. It’s quite chewy and promising for long life to come from such a promiscuous and preferable mouthful to enjoy. Will open for full business by the end of the calendar year. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Gevrey Chambertin Villages 1999, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $96.95, WineAlign)

The vintage has been my go to, fan favourite and highest probability for cellar pulling success since purchasing some Girardin Premier Cru more than 15 years ago and exacting success each time one is opened. Nicolas Potel is both lucky and highly intelligent in his negotiating some 1999 from Gevrey-Chambertin. This here now is quite funky in its own right and that perfect example of older Burgundy walking the fine line of earth-fruit-volatility exactitude. This is a beautifully rich and red liqueur red though I can see how some would see it as showing some microbes to change the conversation. No matter though because tannin following structure is securely intact. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru Petit Chapelle 2001, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $113.00, WineAlign)

Potel finds gold in Gevrey-Chambertin with this extraordinary Petit Chapelle Premier Cru barrel. There is a level of ripeness and extraction that exceeds most of the rest in this magnificent négoce line-up and an aromatic sweetness sans apareil. Really fine and grainy tannins, more sweetness feigned and ropey fruit reigned in and fully completely surrounded. The tough partners have yet to relent. That and the whole distinction is nothing short of amazing. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Grand Cru Clos De La Roche 2004, Ac, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $307.95, WineAlign)

The 2004 Monthelie actually helped in preparation to taste this ’04 Clos de la Roche and that speaks volumes about the vintage as a whole. Homogenous would be one way to say it but clarity and transparency is a good thing. The earthy twang, terroir-funk and rich liquor will collectively never be confused with 2001 and certainly not 1998. This has some serious rigid, kick-ass, dark fruit ripped by acidity and wrangled by mean and aggressive tannin. If you are a fan of powerful Grand Cru than this is yours. You’ll have to be patient though. What lady bug year? Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Grand Cru Clos De La Roche 2001, Ac, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $307.95, WineAlign)

A greater than the sum of its original parts vintage now in clear retrospection is the Clos de La Roche 2001, now having travelled to another realm, an ulterior Bungundian dimension, It is from out of the walled in Grand Cru La Roche that the purity cries, laughs and then cries again. Charity from Burgundy in utmost clarity and a minor important edge of merde. It’s simply pure, terroir-infiltrating gout de Roche squeezed from the earth and emancipated into the greater wine as a whole. The effort to acknowledge the ethereal is no effort at all. The ease of breath is touching and thankful. So pretty, firm, but really, just easy living. Like perfect parents who have raised a confident child with perfect social skills. It’s a medieval poem. You can actually drink this now. Drink 2017-2032.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Grand Cru Clos De La Roche 1998, Ac, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $364.95, WineAlign)

Clos de La Roche 1998 may be 19 years old but you have to swirl the britches out of this Grand Cru because reduction persists in its make-up. Once you work your way over the wall a field of wildflowers and a roses bouquet lays out as far as the nose can mind’s eye. This is pure candy in its most arid, blessed and gout de terroir way. It is as charming as Burgundy can be and yet so fine of tannin, tight and duplicitously-grained in clone upon itself. One of those wines so difficult to put to words because it teaches and you can do nothing but listen. I’d still want to wait two more years, maybe more, before knowing I’ve waited long enough. Close de la Roche speaks to me but to answer with any real credibility and respect I will need to think some more. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2017

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Meursault Premier Cru Charmes 2002, Ac Burgundy (Agent, $214.95, WineAlign)

From Nicolas Potel in Meursault and a highly prized, charged and anticipated Charmes Premier Cru from 2002 no less, immediately distinctive for the smoky, flinty, direct and taut inflection. It would be hard not to appreciate how the barrel has integrated to the point of absence and in effect, walked out the door. Still the fruit persists and it is the years of melting lees that act as the buoy for that fruit to shine like the gem it obviously was, and is. Citrus yes but not definable as such and acidity also melted and dripping with paraffin in advance of honey. That alternative sweetness is still a few years away. The slow evolution and more to come is one of those great impossibilites to make you smile. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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En route to Mondavi

Godello at Mondavi, February 2016 @CalifWines_CA @CBrandsCareers

I’m feeling a Mondavi shiver and a To Kalon shimmer coming on. Another anticipatory Mondavi experience is looming, a next week return venture to the iconic and archetypal Napa Valley winery. This will be my third deep delve into the wines of Robert Mondavi spread out over the past 15 months, after a February 2016 California visit and a June VINTAGES 50th Anniversary structured tasting and dinner. I thought it might be me that was the one getting around but clearly it’s the other way around.

THIS VINEYARD STOOD HEAD AND

SHOULDERS ABOVE THOSE AROUND IT

“The extraordinary quality of this wine originates in Napa Valley’s generous terroir. When I taste this, I’m reminded why Cabernet Sauvignon is the varietal on which Robert Mondavi built his reputation.” These are the comments of Genevieve Janssens, Director of Winemaking. I’d hedge my bets that Fumé Blanc should also fall under the auspicious umbrella of such a statement. Mondavi turned the ideal into copyright and it should be argued that Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc would not be where it is today without the farming, research and development put in by generations of the Mondavi team.

Mondavi @CalifWines_CA @CBrandsCareers — at Robert Mondavi Vineyard.

No matter the varietal, the To Kalon Vineyard is where it all stems from, the rib from which the eponymous winery was born and the subsequent 50 years of wines that have comes from those storied vines. In 1966 Mondavi chose To Kalon as the epicentre of what would turn out to be a great big winemaking universe. “It was a vineyard with a distinguished history and a magical nature, ” he wrote. “Ideal soils, sunlight and rain – to my eye, the vineyard was a treasure.” Five decades of Fumé Blanc have sprung, along with more than a hundred renditions of Cabernet Sauvignon.

During that February 2016 visit we tasted through Napa, Oakville and Reserve Fumé Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Carneros Pinot Noir and To Kalon Vineyard bottles were poured in the Margarit Mondavi Vineyard Room at dinner prepared by Chef Jeff Mosher, including the 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.

Lorenzo Loseto predeliction @georgeonqueen Lobster, asparagus, quinoa, brioche #umami

Last June Mark De Vere MW led a masterclass in celebration of Mondavi’s 50th anniversary. The line up was outstanding bordering on ridiculous. Vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon starting at 2012 and going back through 2007, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1980 and 1975. The VINTAGES sponsored event and dinner at George Restaurant was prepared by the predilection of Executive Chef Lorenzo Loreto.

With 50 years of To Kalon and a specialized certification program up next, there is no better time than the present to publish these notes on 16 Mondavi wines tasted during these recent events and a few others that have found their way through the VINTAGES release program. Here they are.

Feeling a #mondavi shiver and a #tokalon shimmer #50thanniversary @RobertMondavi #markdevere

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2015, Napa Valley, California (SAQ 221887 $22.95, WineAlign)

The landmark 2015 is the culmination of five Mondavi decades spent elevating and differentiating sauvignon blanc, now in the its 50th vintage. The name fumé blanc and Mondavi are synonymous with one another in unequivocal signature, identical twin, trademark, signature fashion. Not just for Oakville, Napa Valley and California but anywhere and everywhere. You can throw in benchmark, Fodor’s or Lonely Planet guide, dictionary entry or whatever moniker you like. Mondavi’s is all this and in 2015 at its richest and adroitly balanced best. The nose is all ripe orchard fruit from seed to stone and the palate full of texture, acidity and length. The flavours repeat the apple-pear-peach-plum fodder with great tang and near-essential aridity. Great vineyards produce great sauvignon blanc and the rest is history. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc Oakville 2013, Napa Valley, California (SAQ 13119254 $32.00, WineAlign)

The Oakville fumé blanc is a To Kalon gathering, the vineyard that surrounds the Robert Mondavi Winery. With so many “highest beauty” offerings it’s hard to keep track but this qualifies for the distinction with as much respect as any in the ever moving squall of the portfolio. Here from the geographic mean of the valley, a benchmark Bordeaux blend in bench abutment, composed of 89 per cent sauvignon blanc and (11) sémillon. This is only the third vintage and once in cohorts you note the elevated toast, struck flint and smoke. More citrus involves the senses, something almost rare for Napa Valley, in this way. With time (and please be encouraged to hang out for a while) the butterscotch joins the fumé party. The increased tense intention translates to excellent length. The sémillon makes a statement into the nicely bitter finish, with weight, stoicism and certainly the great potential for age. By way of comparison to the Napa Valley bottle there are 5,000 cases of this Oakville. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2016

Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Fumé Blanc To Kalon Vineyard 2012, Napa Valley, California (SAQ 225599 $44.75, WineAlign)

The To Kalon Vineyard Reserve produces 2500 cases (in a big year) and 2012 topped out at 1700. The vintage delivers more green apple and elastic elegance so good luck in your search for reduction, flint, toast and smoke. You should look to 2013 for such a deferential stylistic and make plans to embosom the two side by side 10 years onward. This is mostly sourced from the 1959 planted Robert’s Block within the larger vineyard, primarily gravelly and well-draining with some alluvial soil edged against the Mayacamas Mountains. The spice here is exceptional, with some anomalic Napa Valley mineral tang afforded by the sémillon blended into the sauvignon blanc. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted February 2016

Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley, California (492124, $44.95, WineAlign)

There is a richness defined in a Mondavi chardonnay that goes beyond the simple fact that the fruit is Carneros in origin. It’s a luxe composition because of that terroir and also because winemaker Genevieve Janssens is painfully shy to let the fruit speak on its own behalf. The crux and the key lies and turns right there because this is a Mondavi wine. Just as it is always noted with fumé blanc, chardonnay too develops this obeisant disposition, full of emotive ability and perhaps not exactly what you are want to expect, varietally speaking. This is singular for Carneros chardonnay and it’s all Mondavi. It’s both country kitchen in weekend baking mode and a walk in the ripening orchard. It’s a starred Michelin kitchen in baking fury, with a multiplicity of sugars caramelizing overtop a myriad of ramekins welling with tropical fruit. Finally, it’s a Mondavi acidity, elevated and integrated. It’s good chardonnay. Drink 2017-2022.   Tasted April 2017

Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir Reserve 2013, Carneros, Napa Valley, California (SAQ 10219840, $60.50, WineAlign)

Some wise old conditioned and character building vines go into Mondavi’s pinot noir, “purchased from people who have better fruit than we do.” The Hyde Vineyard (40 plus year-old vines) and Rancho Carneros (which includes vines planted in 1979) bring the southernmost windswept part of Napa Valley into the pinot mix. This is optimum extraction in hyperbole, of fruit that runs the gamut from red to deeply dark. It is nothing if not a rich, concentrated and intensely flavourful pinot noir. There is a measure of stuffing to see it drink this way for at least five years from release. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted February 2016

50th anniversary @RobertMondavi @LCBO #VINTAGES tasting @GeorgeTO #constellationbrands #cabernetsauvignon

Robert Mondavi 50th Anniversary Maestro Red 2013, Napa Valley, California (459933, $60.00, WineAlign)

Maestro the proprietary blend endows another legacy building notch onto the Robert Mondavi name. This is accomplished through the tenets of wisdom in winemaking as an extension from historic estate vineyards. To Kalon is always the rock and in order to make this 50th Anniversary blend there were sources drawn from throughout Napa Valley though mostly from the Stags Leap District. Merlot (59 per cent) is the pillar with cabernet franc (25), cabernet sauvignon (7), petit verdot (6) and malbec. It’s a true five varietal Bordeaux-styled affair with classic Mondavi elevated pH and acidity. The concept is taken from the image of Robert Mondavi as the maestro of the orchestra and of greater Napa Valley. The liquor of merlot provides the base wine, joined dusty and injected with power by jolts of espresso. It’s an interesting 50th anniversary choice of voice, antithetical to the dominant cabernet sauvignon reds that Mondavi is so famous for and the varietal he staked his reputation on. But rich and velvety helps the cause and the result. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted June 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley, California (255513, $37.95, WineAlign)

The aridity of 2013 has now translated into some lovely development in bottle that trials and tribulates with its wealthy pool of rich, ripe and silky chocolate texture. Such a typically reasoned Napa Valley explanation with 47 years under its increscent belt. Serious tannins need five years to seek settlement and to carry structure for to build a home for the ripe fruit. At 14.8 per cent alcohol there is much to fuel and keep the abode bathed in warmth, along with American oak in pancetta ooze, augmented by smoke and spice. Chewy and huge. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted twice, February and June 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, Napa Valley, California (459883, $73.00, WineAlign)

This 1996 is the 30th anniversary bottling at 20 years-old showing with impossible structure and beautiful possibilities still lay ahead. Though expecting it to push through to its 30th birthday is overly ambitious it will drink just like this, with freshness, bright red fruit and pitch perfect acidity for at least three more years. The pleasure it currently brings suggests this is what was meant to be, by design, of great fortune or just plain luck, so get it while it rests in this ethereal state. Those who paid nothing for it early on were the wisest of the wise and also lucky. This Mondavi ’96 would be a Left Bank killer in a Bordeaux blind tasting, teasing as it does with whiffs of Cassis and tobacco, plus a fortune in subtle perfume. The finish brings a note of baked bricks, almost like nebbiolo but the structure is all cabernet sauvignon. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 1994, Napa Valley, California (459867, $73.00, WineAlign)

From a cool, oft times wet vintage with an elongated ripening season the under appreciated, under-valued and underestimated cabernet sauvignons of Napa Valley continue to get their say. This Mondavi ’94 will not be denied its voice, showing harmonious parts in symphony, of power, grip and elegance from To Kalon Vineyard fruit, amazing acidity and more than impressive longevity. Here now some notes of balsam wood, mushroom and soy have taken hold with more than just two years of extra time as compared to the silly fresh ’96, but the jig is not yet up. The combination of brown sugar and lingering mixed berry fruit is nothing but lovely. Drink up soon. Drink 2016-2017.   Tasted June 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2012, Napa Valley, California (670463, $150.00, WineAlign)

Much of the fruit is brought to the Napa Reserve from the To Kalon Vineyard and it is rounded out with complimentary Napa and 16 months in 100 per cent new French oak. From a post 2011 hardship deliverance, more than welcome, hallelujah even vintage. Now a Mondavi return to floral posture above and beyond the Napa and Oakville bottle norms. So very pretty and powerful, out of saturation and into drought from which tannic structure is born. Full on fruit without borders, up to the top of the walls and back down in to the glass. With each sip the tannin builds and builds until the wall is constructed. There is no escape because the architecture is both classic and exceptional. Don’t be in a hurry. Struggle will only tighten the grip. Be patient and the next decade will deliver elegance and grace. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve To Kalon Vineyard 2012, Oakville, Napa Valley, California (670463, $150.00, WineAlign)

This is just the second vintage of the To Kalon Oakville Reserve (as opposed to the Napa bottling) from a vineyard where Robert Mondavi established his winery in 1966 and the next “great one,” after 2009. The To Kalon (western) Oakville Reserve is like the Gretzky of cabernet sauvignons, a generational player that only comes along once (or in wine terms, two or three times) a decade. The finest blocks and the “walk in the park” vintage conspired to make To Kalon a focal point once again, of both pH and acidity on the elevated scale, telling us that longevity will never come into question. The wall of tannin exhibited by the Napa Reserve is not duplicated here and so it is a different sort of structure that builds, with more black cherry rich fruit and coveted acescence, but also an absence refined, as if the French barrel hides, deftly woven into the fineness of grain. There is a dusty, ropey and slow developing rise in character, as if a low, barely audible rumble can be heard, or sensed. A waffling between great and outstanding is certainly understood but by the time we reach 2030 and add up the career statistics of this To Kalon I’m quite certain the jury will be out. Drink 2018-2031.  Tasted February and June 2016

Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley, California (670463, $144.95, WineAlign)

Tasted at the nine year mark the vintage warmth has nowhere to hide and the fruit is coming within reason of raisin. A small percentage of petit verdot is part of this Mondavi development from fruit as rich, concentrated and extracted as any. The choices made here surely went a long way towards teaching what subsequent decisions were made with the aridity of 2012, 2013 and 2014. The dried fruit as syrup glazing the layers of cake melts into the decadence of barrel chocolate and a roundness of acidity so different that the 2012s. Some earthy, woodsy floor grounds this ’07 so that you are able to see fruit through the forest’s trees. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016

Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, Napa Valley, California (WineAlign)

Though sandwiched betwixt and gobsmacked between some infamous Napa Valley vintages (most notable 1995-7 and 1999) don’t look past this golden era 1998. To Kalon Vineyard is the source so right there is pretty much what you need to know about pedigree and potential. At this 17-18 years point in time a few drops of soy and a melt or two of caramel are noted in the ’98 Reserve’s development. Secondary affirmations and vintage structure bring out the purity of the herbaceous quality in cabernet sauvignon together with the slow evolution of a quiet, respectful wine. A tender and silky balsamic reduction chimes in though time is still a friend, willing and allowing the fruit to continue its natural path towards senectitude. I can’t find any reason to not seek tertiary character and continue to enjoy this over the next six years. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted February 2016

Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1995, Napa Valley, California (670463, WineAlign)

A few points of merlot were blended into this 21-year salute to Mondavi’s legacy, a cabernet sauvignon impossibly fresh and bright this deep into life. The acidity is not only persistent it’s downright captivating and spellbinding. With thanks to the vintage of course, after a wet spring and a long, cool summer. Few double digit decade retrospective looks into the Mondavi cabernet sauvignon anthology would deliver such clarity of fruit seemingly immune to the truffled passages of time. By dint of tradition and without any forced supervision wines like this govern themselves and yet this might be a larger consideration regarding the entire portfolio. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted June 2016

Say, friend – you got any more of that good Sarsaparilla? #thestranger #thebiglebowski #yeahthatsagoodone

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1980, Napa Valley, California (WineAlign)

Mondavi’s 1980 Reserve comes from a time when Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon was made in an unidentified, free and indirect style. The young To Kalon Vineyard may have already known its iconic place but if the makers also knew they could not have so easily created such an early success for us to revel in 36 years later. This is now and still fresh, at least in the context of three dozen years in the bag, with that tied To Kalon triumvirate of acidity, tannin and structure seamless and unsevered. How many aromatic notes can be described? Sarsaparilla, root beer, baked bricks, tomato leaf, pipe tobacco, eryngii mushroom, potpourri and mocha are eight that come to mind and nose. It’s a juicy ’80, not so much in terms of fruit though further sips bring faint memories on the back palate. All this 36 years later manages to remove responsibility from the omniscient perspective of the winemaker and lay it comfortably and pleasurably in our hands and minds. So much thanks for this opportunity. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted June 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1975, Napa Valley, California (WineAlign)

Forty one years is a long haul for a wine to hang in there and I’m not sure more than a handful of 1975 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon not plucked from the future iconic climat of To Kalon Vineyard could have survived this test of time. Even with the impressive longevity and lifeline ability this is now more curiosity than pleasure. Some might say at this stage the wine may be aimless but who can deny that it is also possessive of poised intelligence. From a vintage overshadowed by 1974, there is some old California Golden Seals hockey bag sweat in the aromatic mix along with savoury mulch and mushroom. There really is no fruit left to speak of, prune perhaps but no berries. The acidity still rips with some strength, swirling into the burnt caramel and all things considered this ain’t dead yet. It does show some Bretty notes that the 1980 does not and in the end the adage is true, spoken so eloquently by Mark de Vere MW. “Flavours you cannot replicate without time.” Drink 2016.   Tasted June 2016

Godello at Mondavi, February 2016 @CalifWines_CA @CBrandsCareers

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

All in with Chianti Classico

Ci vediamo domani @chianticlassico #cc17 #gallonero #chianticlassico

The Chianti Classico Collection 2017 was held over two days, February 13th and 14th at Stazione Leopolda in Florence, Italy. The largest of the Tuscan Anteprime poured more than 430 examples of DOCG sangiovese grown and produced from estates in the region. There is no other such opportunity to taste such a wide diversity of one multi-faceted entity in one place. Even if you’ve been privileged to attend before and are fortunate enough to be afforded the chance again, sitting in at Anteprima Chianti Classico should always be viewed as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

I must always remind you that what we are talking about is Chianti Classico, two words strung together that mean so much. One without the other diminishes the meaning and the significance. Chianti Classico was my rock, my galestro and my home base in and out of February Anteprime tastings. I made six new estate visits in 2017, bringing the total number visited in the last calendar year to 14.

In advance of the two-day affair I joined the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico’s Christine Lechner on February 12th for a three-estate visit, first to Podere La Cappella, next to Bibbiano and finally, back to Villa Trasqua. I tasted in the most impressive and unparalleled of press rooms on the morning and into the early afternoon of the 13th, followed by a walk through on the producers’ side to assess further with winemakers and vintners. My focus on day one was Annata 2015 and 2014 with a short delve into some young Riserva examples. I took a break to take in a panel discussion led by the Consorzio’s Director Giuseppe Liberatore and on the night of the 13th attended the gala dinner.

Consorzio Vino del Chianti Classico Director Giuseppe Liberatore hosts an Anteprima panel discussion

On the second day of #CCC2017 I began with an Annata refresher and then worked my way through Riserva and Gran Selezione, careful to attack all vintages presented so as to gain some understanding into the tenets of agreeability, evolution, development and to be able to compare and contrast with these thoughts in mind. At the end of day two I jumped in Iacopo Morganti’s car and high-tailed it out of Dodge. We drove to Il Molino di Grace. The next day I joined Silvia Fiorentini for another two visit excursion, to Villa Calcinaia and Carobbio.

Anteprima Chianti Classico 2017

This step back into Chianti Classico time was purposed for an all in, taste as many sangiovese as is humanly possible two-day inculcation at Anteprima 2017. The uninitiated will wonder and ask how this is accomplished. How do you taste so many wines of the same ilk and differentiate from one to the next? The answer is really quite simple and straightforward. The sangiovese of Chianti Classico are like children. They are all different. They are snowflakes.

Related – The most important red wine from Italy

To a world who considers all sangiovese to be cut from the same cloth, from a fichu always woven of volatile acidity, fresh cherry and old leather, there are some things worth knowing. Like for instance did you know that both the Ricasoli and Carobbio estates are variegated with five unique and distinct soil types? Did you know that in Chianti Classico marl and limestone come in many variations, three of which are called Galèstro, Albarese and Colombino? Soil matters for what differentiates hundreds of contrastive sangiovese.

But why or more importantly, how are they different? What factors separate Castellina from Tavarnelle Val di Pesa or Gaiole, San Casciano from Poggibonsi or Greve, Mercatale Val di Pesa from Barberino Val d’Elsa or Radda, Castelnuovo Berardenga from Monti, Lamole, San Donato in Poggio or Panzano. Take these last two micro sub zones and dig deeper still. How do the micro-terroirs within these sub-appellative areas like Panzano or San Donato in Poggio differentiate within themselves from one ridge, hill or valley to the next. How is it that one side of the Conca d’Oro is responsible for wines that so profoundly contrast with the other? The answers are never simple but let’s see if we can gain some understanding, especially through an analysis of the DOCG wines presented at the Chianti Classico Collection 2017. Later this month I will host a Masterclass at the Shangri la Hotel and we’ll look to acquiesce some answers through the eyes and the knowledge of seven outstanding producers.

Many of you will recognize the following potentially controversial quote from Roberto Stucchi’s “The Evolution of Chianti Classico.” Stucchi writes “this zone is too large and diverse to remain locked in the current DOCG regulations, which make no distinction between the extremely diverse expressions of Sangiovese in its original territory. The first natural level of evolution above the simple “Chianti Classico” appellation would be naming the Comune [township] of origin of the grapes for wines that truly represent their territory. The next step would be to define the village appellations, the smaller zones that are distinctive and that would clearly define some of the top wines in the appellation. So we could have Panzano, Monti, Lamole, as possible zones as well as the many others that have a common geography and history. This type of classification wouldn’t eclipse the current definitions of Classico, Riserva, Gran Selezione.”

Now I am not here to revive a discussion about breaking Chianti Classico up into sub-zones, based on geology or not, although I wouldn’t get in the way of highly experienced, intelligent and opinionated Chianti Classico folks from expressing their own views. We know that defining sub-zones and sub-sub zones is partially arbitrary, certainly based on subjective opinion, potentially discriminatory and so ultimately, controversial. There are no borders underground so to try and compartmentalize by geology is almost impossible. The only way to draw lines is above ground, by commune, village, river or road.

No, I am here to talk about the multiplicity of sangiovese. Though it is almost impossible to qualify what that means and by the end of this discussion we all may feel even further away from a clear and concise regional definition, we will have traveled through a healthy discourse that sheds more light on the personality and character of these wines. I’m not going to lead us into a pedagogical wasteland but rather open the door to the diversity of Chianti Classico. What we need is to talk about is the allogeneous capabilities of the grape, so that’s the plan.

#chianticlassico #gallonero #cc17

My friend and colleague Dr. Jamie Goode noted “The soils vary quite a bit, and it’s not easy to make a link between the geology and the way the wine tastes.” Jamie’s comment refers to the disconnect between geological zones and administrative boundaries. I don’t disagree with the challenge presented but I wholeheartedly oppose the idea that Chianti Classico’s variegated rocks and earth underfoot do not influence the taste of the wines. This is where the positive and as I have been warned, even the negative connotations of the word complexity come into play. Simply drawing lines and borders does not do justice to the multiplicity of sangiovese throughout the region. There are pockets of each of the many sub-soils found all over. Galestro is not confined to one location with a defined and easily traceable perimeter.  Wherever it is found, the other trace minerals, clay, silt, Macigno sandstone or calcareous tufa it might mix into will alter the character building nutrients it lends to the roots and their vines. Sangiovese in Radda with Galestro in the soil has a distinct character, just as it does a different one in Panzano. Even within Panzano the wines will differ, depending which slope and depression in the land on which the sangiovese digs deep into that galestro.

#cc17 #chianticlassico #gallonero

In Chianti Classico, just as there are anywhere grapes are grown, there are these schema of the earth created and then developed over millions of years. Just as one example there is this ridge, an escarpment really that works its way from Tavernelle and across to San Donato in Poggio. The intendment of this geology and geography and its unique aspects play a vital role in determining some of the most complex sangiovese. The significance of this is not lost on my mission.

Galestro is a sedimentary rock deposit left behind by the ancient Ligurian-Piedmontese ocean. When the Apennine mountain chain was formed the sediments were raised and pushed to the east giving rise to the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. The galestro, clay and rock known as the “iolithium unit” is also referred to as “palombini” or “colombini” limestones, found (among other locations) in San Donato in Poggio, while in ​​Castellina in Chianti there is this gray-hazel limestone, of fine grain and concoid fracture.

After tasting through 150 sangiovese over two days at Stazione Leopolda in Firenze I joined Iacopo Morganti for the drive to a pin on the map south from Firenze along the Chiantigiana, sidestepping for the Florentine view from Impruneta, then through Greve and into Panzano. The reason for my return began as it always does, to adduce a lifelong pursuit deep into the meaning of sangiovese. It also fosters a fixation dug into the variegated soils of Chianti Classico and even further still, to the nurturing, sub-appellative specificity of sangiovese’s intaglio secrets. With each return it also ingrains a feeling of coming home. In this case home feels like Il Molino di Grace.

#pasta #perfetta #castagnoli

Related – Grace in Chianti Classico

I first visited Il Molino di Grace in May 2016 and was graciously welcomed into the family’s estate by Morganti. In the months leading up to that first visit I had opportunities to assess Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione at LCBO media lab tastings in Toronto. I became an instant convert and a buyer even before I stepped foot onto Il Molino di Grace’s sloping Galèstro soil-driven vineyards in Panzano. After that May visit I was transformed into a life-long friend.

Later that May I was handed the keys to Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione Masterclass presentation at The Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto. My role was to open the door to sangiovese perception before a crowd of Toronto sommeliers, agents, buyers and media. It was the Gallo Nero’s 300 year anniversary and its Ontario reputation was entrusted to me by the consorzio braintrust of President Sergio Zingarelli, Director Giuseppe Liberatore, Silvia Fiorentini and Christine Lechner. At that Toronto event I had the pleasure to meet and sit on the panel with Tim Grace.

To say that Il Molino di Grace is an authentic producer of terroir-driven Chianti Classico would be an understatement. Their vineyards are set upon some of the finest Galèstro soil in all of Chianti Classico. The permeations and permutations from that soil have separated this estate from so many others with a portfolio of wines constructed with power, finesse and yes, grace.

The Count Sebastiano Capponi of @villacalcinaia in his element #greveinchianti #ilconte #conticapponi #chianticlassico

Related – Six hundred years of Villa Calcinaia in Chianti Classico

The following morning, on a more than crisp and impossibly beautiful February morning, the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico’s Silvia Fiorentini, Sebastiano Capponi and I took a walk around Villa Calcinaia, away from the Greve River and onto the fanned amphitheatre of a hill that encompasses the estate’s holdings. Within Calcinaia’s boundaries the soils change dramatically, not unusual for Greve, so the consistency of the landscape alters depending on the proximity to the river. Just across the road it changes again. At Calcinaia we tasted the four classico tiers of Annata, Riserva, Gran Selezione and Vin Santo along with a second line called Piegaia, also organic and produced from younger vines at a slightly more attractive price point.

Silvia Fiorentini and Dario Faccin

Related – Caro Carobbio

What about Tenuta Carrobio? Aside from the specialized plots that deal with Dario Faccin’s best wines, there is this specific, steep-terraced red clay soil vineyard he uses for Rosato. Rosé? Single-vineyard. Terra Rossa. Yes, this is what Chianti Classico brings to the table. A year ago in 2016, as I do now,  I repeat the mantra. Singularite, diversite, qualite. Tenuta Carobbio at Panzano in Chianti lies at the heart of Chianti Classico and below the hilltop town sits the “golden basin” of the Conca d’Oro, once a prized wheat producing area interspersed with grape vineyards and olive groves. Carobbio is not so easy to find. The tight twisting road from Panzano climbs and descends before turning off-road for the descent into the valley where tucked away and recondite Carobbio lies. It is no stretch to call Carobbio a hidden gem. The soils are characterized by a significant proportion of deep clay, sandstone, siltstone strata, marl and Alberese, the latter two most typical of Chianti Classico.

Who's ready for lunch? #poderelacappella #chianticlassico

A post shared by Michael Godel (@mgodello) on

Related – The heart and the hearth of Podere La Cappella

The day before the Chianti Classico Anteprima I toured the region with the Consorzio’s Christine Lechner. Which brings me to this very special visit I made to see Bruno and Natascia Rossini at Podere La Cappella. You do your best to breathe in and with eyes wide open examine to commit to memory the simple and extraordinary truths that you see around a property such as this. You see it as beatific, elysian, baronial and devout, as a small piece of paradise in a sea of paradisiacal estates in Chianti Classico, but here unequivocal to San Donato in Poggio.

Related – Chilling with the bad boy of Chianti Classico

If you stand on the plateau at Bibbiano and look down one slope and then the other, another epiphany will follow. You listen to what Tomasso Marrocchesi Marzi has to say about his vineyards, how each affect his wines but also what happens when he combines the two together.  What stands apart with glaring clarity is the determinate or indeterminate Bibbiano slope each wine draws their fruit from, in some cases one or the other and yes still in others, a combination of the two. Montornello and Vigna del Capannino. The descending vineyards on either side of the Bibbiano plateau offer up an incredible study in contrasting Chianti Classico geology.

A study of the district of Castellina in Chianti and geomorphological Bibbiano is paradigmatic to the variety of the appellation. The estate is placed at the southwestern side of the area with altitudes varying from 250m to 600m. It’s plateau is perched on two slopes, on a late Miocene and early Pliocene seabed platform aged 5-10 million years. On one side the highest and eastern is based on primary boulder platforms; the lowest and western on silt sediments. More specifically it is broken down as calcareous silt and sediments of diverse kinds of clay mixed with round pebbles, rare sands, rare chalk veins on the NE estate side; pure gray clay with fragmented limestones, shattered schists on the SW estate side.

On that glorious February 12th afternoon in between Anteprime days I exited the car at Bibbiano and noticed this most beautiful stone wall bathed in Chianti Classico light. Castellina in Chianti light to be precise, overlooking the Elsa Valley towards the castle of Monteriggioni and I laid my body down for a quick rest. Here in Bibbiano with Montornello on the northwestern side and on the southwestern, Vigna del Capannino. A stillness filled the air. Minutes later, refreshed and ready, I sat down to taste Bibbiano’s wines. A river of adroit style runs through the wines of Bibbiano. They are uncluttered, ingenious, precise and successive sangiovese (and sangiovese grosso) wines of tradition and modernity. I tasted Chianti Classico Annata, Riserva, Gran Selezione.

A restful return and new visit with the #chianticlassico of #villatrasqua #castellinainchianti Thank you Sven. Thank you Giorgia. #graziemille

Related – A Chianti Classico return to Villa Trasqua

Like love, sangiovese from Chianti Classico can’t be owned because no two are the same. It was a return to Villa Trasqua where the revelation snuck into my brain and my heart because while their wines are no exception to the Chianti Classico rule, they are becoming increasingly exceptional and each are their own emotive exemption. I joined Sven Hulsbergen and Villa Trasqua’s Export Manager Giorgia Casadio for dinner and to taste through the estate’s current releases, not to mention some spirited conversation and debate.

I have tasted, assessed and reviewed 121 Chianti Classico Annata, Riserva and Gran Selezione since February 2017. Most of these tasting notes were taken at the Chianti Classico Collection and during my six estate visits. A handful were also done at ProWein 2017 in Düsseldorf, Germany in March.

Journalists at Chianti Classico Collection 2017

Chianti Classico DOCG (Annata) 2015

Villa Belvedere Campoli Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Since January 2016 the estate has been under the ownership of Conte Ferdinando Guicciardini, on the ridge of the hills between Mercatale and Montefiridolfi at an altitude of about 400 meters. Since the 18th century it was held by the Winchler family attending the court of grand duke Pietro Leopoldo of Lorene, located in the village of Mercatale Val di Pesa. The 2015 is notable for a remarkable fresh raspberry purée but with some firm and rich grip. Softens on the palate into a very easy, gulpable, gamay-like sangiovese. Just a fractive bit of sweet tannin comes up the backside, unannounced and soothing. Cool minty finish and ultimately noted as a mineral, Mercatale specific sangiovese. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017   Villa Belvedere Campoli  #villabelvederecampoli

Cantine Bonacchi Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

From Castelnuovo Berardenga. Quite bretty and old-school, not so funky but certainly earthy-volatile. Still reeling and not settled in its glass house. Scents of strawberry and the rubbed or bruised leaves, so the savour and herbiage is a good foil to the funk. Chalky finish. Drink 2018-2019. Tasted February 2017  @TheCaseForWine  Cantine Bonacchi  #cantinebonacchi

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

“The road from Radda leads to Amma,” where some of Chianti Classico’s most fertile land treats sangiovese vines as if they were planted in a garden. Hard not to experience this Gaiole Chianti Classico as a sangiovese of extreme youth for a quick to bottle Ama, so floral and what just has to be so as a result of some whole cluster, feigning carbonic and hyperbole of managed freshness. Some exotic spice in perfume and real, certain, credible clarity. Not that this will entertain notions of Ama longevity but the purity clarifies the 2015 vintage position of consumer and critical mass quality. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @CastellodiAma  @castellodiama  @HalpernWine  castellodiama  halpernwine  @halpernwine

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (219808, $17.95, WineAlign)

A broad brushstroke of sangiovese around San Casciano in Val di Pesa conjoins and completes Gabbiano’s Chianti Classico, a rich to riches ’15 of pure red berry and some plum fruit. Spice blankets the expression and is certainly needed to match and offset the level of ripeness. This is hands off, ultra-clean work from winemaker Federico Cerelli and über exemplary of the vintage. Consumers will not be able to resist. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @castgabbiano  @MarkAnthonyWine  castellodigabbiano  markanthonyon  @castellogabbiano  Ivano Reali (Castello Di Gabbiano)

I Collazzi I Bastioni Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Collazzi has been producing this CC since 2002 from seven hectares located in the adjacent town of San Casciano. The exposure is south/south western on rocky, well drained soils. Quite firm and somewhat muted aromatic entry out of the good must but musty nonetheless. I’m getting white to grey clay but not much fruit. Really solid texture and structure to the palate though again not a Chianti Classico of fruit sort vintage. Austere and demanding though pleasure surely lies ahead. Not absent minded of a fruit deprived style but just that it’s too young. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2017    @CollazziVini  collazzivini

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent,, $31.95, WineAlign)

From Radda in Chianti and one of Chianti Classico’s great young, forward thinking winemakers Bernardo Bianchi the wisdom is easily noted, deduced, accepted, considered and abided. Red fruit with an earth’s dusty, cracked crust allows for smells like fresh tiles and the just mixed mortar but that fruit is aching to burst forth. Very seamless for a young Chianti Classico, so this building will stand strong and last through the centuries, which in wine years equates to seven, maybe ten. Terrific sweet acidity, life-affriming sapidity and vitality. As good as young CC gets with the longest, pitch perfect tang in elongation, drift and persistence. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2017    @NokhrinWines  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto

Dievole Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The Castelnuovo Berardenga fruit beyond the tart generalities of red cherry delves into something a bit deeper, of that next level from extraction. With this in mind there might be some expectation of tannin onto which fine bitters latch below but this ’15 takes the vintage’s best offerings and travels up the high road. High acidity is both the magnifier and the qualifier so this has to wait, at least a year plus before the mineral-chalk and sustainable grip begin to integrate. Look at this Dievole as existing in the modern Chianti Classico realm that will be at its best in the near but over the dale future.  Drink 2019-2022. Tasted February 2017  @Dievole  @dievole  dievole

Fattoria Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Another sangiovese in the slightly calm, quiet and demurred realm where some seem shy and not quite ready to speak. Though that being said the red fruit is gorgeous, alive, with great balancing acidity and tannin. This really works, strikes, reels, lashes again, reveals earth and fruit intertwined. A refined and actually quite modern CC from San Casciano in Val di Pesa. There is a very smart winemaker working this room. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017    @famiglianunzicont  Antonio Nunzi Conti  #nunziconti

Fattoria Di Ruppiano Astorre Noti Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Quite tart to nose with funky meanderings and some microbial activity. Palate is better but the grainy, chalky, bitter and astringent tannin brings out the fruit, which happens to be green. From Castelnuovo Berardenga. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @fattoriadiruppianoastorrenoti  #ruppiano

Pasolini dall’Onda Chianti Classico Sicelle 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

One of the freshest sangiovese, pure of red fruit, essence of ripe berries and a natural feel that is too often rarely there. This strikes as wild yeast organic, perfectly tart, thirst quenching and second, third and fourth sip inducing. No funk, so clean, precise and pleasing. Takes its Barberino Val d’Elsa hilly clay sloped with gravelly-ciotoloso streaks and runs like a river right through it. Ease of ability, confidence and just fruit to enjoy for the first two years of utmost most enjoyment. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  Fattoria Pasolini dall’Onda Borghese  #FattoriaPasolinidallOnda

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

Every Chianti Classico tasting should begin with a 2015 and Podere La Cappella’s is the ideal portal. Breaks it consistently down with 90 sangiovese and 10 merlot because, as we are informed by Natascia Rossini, “if you want to make Chianti Classico and drink it (relatively) young, you need to blend in a little bit of merlot or cabernet.” This is the wise sangiovese, from vines seven to 10 years old and still the mineral gives, even from young vines. Important in that it is raised with no new oak and in which richness is balanced by the sort of acidity that tries to remain out of focus, out of the spotlight. The fruit is dark and broods in youth, so a comparison to ’14 will be smart. The contrast reminds us of a more getable, dare it be said commercial vintage in this two sides of the moon sangiovese. Robust, consolidated, sober and gorgeous. Still, a year will make a difference. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2017      #poderelacappella  Natascia Rossini

Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The seventh vintage for the cement-aged Annata is a firm one, especially for 2015, of quick aromatic demand, already thinking ahead, not necessarily for the here and now. The sangiovese di Lamole from decent Greve in Chianti altitude (450m) delivers some hillside (mountain-isn) herbs and fennel with chicory too. To the palate comes a char on cinghiale roasting over the fire. Top quality acidity rounds out this traditional, fiery red sangiovese with grip and persistence.  Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @ProfileWineGrp    Podere Poggio Scalette  Podere Poggio Scalette

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

You can take the boy out of the vintage but you can’t take the vintage out of the boy. It may very well be 2015 but the estate style is clear and vivid, wild and intense. This is a massive Panzano-fortified CC in relation to most others. Deep, dark fruit, wild acidity and crazy tannins. Not typically 2015, full of structure and quite the lion. Now is way too early to enjoy and if this is not the CC you want for the here and now so be it. Find another. This is the way of Marinai. This is built for a long journey ahead. But there is no worrying over the rise and fall of the cake. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted February 2017    #renzomarinai  Renzo Marinai Panzano

Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (741769, $18.95, WineAlign)

Rocca delle Macie’s Chianti Classico 2015 makes the adjustment and will be perfect for the current market, now changing in style again, away from dark colour, with less cabernet sauvignon, to be so very sangiovese and to celebrate the vintage. The classic fresh, bright and righteously dusty red cherry is just so very subtle and refined for what sangiovese can be. You will be hard pressed to find a more amenable, reachable and commercially getable Chianti Classico from a vintage ready to roll. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted February 2017  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Terre di Prenzano 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The single-vineyard Greve in Chianti Prenzano is quite traditional sangiovese from vines are 15-20 years old. As with so many 2015’s the youth is glaring and in Vignamaggio coupled with elevated tones. The flowers are in bloom big time, the dark fruit just picked. The settling required here is more pressing so imagine this shed of its current stark realities softening in two years and gifting the warmth and balance of the vintage. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @vignamaggio  @HHDImports_Wine  Vignamaggio  vignamaggio

Chianti Classico DOCG 2014

Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (168286, $23.95, WineAlign)

Taken out of both the north and south vineyards (the estate sits on the ridge of Bibbiano at 310m) from the difficult, rainy vintage. Tomasso Marrocchesi Marzi notes that “being organic you have to be very careful with your farming” but despite the adversity the fruit came clean. You get freshness, acidity, florals of a wide range, fennel-liquorice, mint and savour, taut sapidity, but not wound so tight you can’t gain access. The vintage solicited a careful selection, more so than usual but not so out of the ordinary. Yields were low as result. This is very sturdy, essential sangiovese of tradition, proper description of its dual terroir and what it means to be in this wine. From calcareous pebbles in variegated clay and sharp schist in red clay. Smells like the slopes and its natural growth, with just a touch of colorino, raised all in concrete and no wood. Is what it is, perfect and imperfect. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @bibbianowines  VineWhys Wine Experts  @bibbianowines  bibbianowines

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico La Ghirlanda 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The Castelnuovo Berardenga Ghirlanda vineyard is found on the Mocenni estate, near Vagliagli. The modern palate in search of Riserva in Chianti Classico will want this, of extraction and compression, not to mention density and a sweeping vat of deep black cherry liqueur. A nice mineral streak comes from soil rich in galestro and alberese at 450 meters. in the shadow of Monteriggioni. It’s tart and tannic but of tannins that are already fully engaged, chalky and established in their grip. It’s all in there now. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017   @BindiSergardi  Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi  @bindisergardi  bindisergardi

Brogioni Maurizio Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Brogioni Maurizio is plain good funky Greve in Chianti Chianti Classico of its own sweet funk with a bounce in its step, a funk that does not so much blow away as carry on with the musicality of the fruit. The palate piles on with great harmonic volatility. The beat is part disco and part Funkadelic R & B  all wrapped and warped into one crazy fun wine.  Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2017  Maurizio Brogioni  #brogionimaurizio

Silvia Fiorentini and Dario Faccin

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $37.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico 2014 is a Panzano in Chianti, Conca d’Oro sangiovese with five per cent merlot that takes just one whiff to gain an understanding of what’s going on with wine director Dario Faccin, Carobbio and where these wines are heading. From the start I would ask to leave vintage concern or controversy out of the equation and simply concentrate on the purity from a variegated sangiovese that is entirely specific to the vineyards here. The red to purple sangiovese, transversing a line from a classic to ultra modern without ever veering from what sangiovese must have been and quintessentially is, off of vines tendered into Carobbio’s soils. The only comparison thus far is the Radda in Chianti Colle Bereto from Bernardo Bianchi, here of course so different, but with perfect hue, avoidance of massive structure and bullish tannin, in a word or two, “molto elegante.” Precise. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @Tenuta_Carobbio  @apparitionwines  @tenutacarobbio  carobbio_wine

Casa al Vento Chianti Classico Aria 2014, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

In terms of Vendemmia 2014, Aria from Gaiole In Chianti is a wilder expression, more da capo than di sorbetto, with cherries so bright to the point of vivid and a deep exhaling, high-toned and rising still. There is a dusty fennel note as well mixed into the faint but frank acetone. This improves dramatically on the palate and with oak more presence than you would think would or could transmute. Quite fine for a 2014 and looking back on it, pressed deftly for success. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @casaalvento  borgocasaalvento  @AgriturismoChiantiCasaAlVento

Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Monsanto’s sangiovese (with 10 per cent canaiolo and colorino) comes from Barberino Val D’Elsa and the line here is walked by the darker fruit, albeit dusty with a shade of new leather, richness and depth. You can sense the low-yielding, classic savour of the 2014 vintage. Chianti Classico possessive of such fruit, spice, bite and chew. Feels a touch warm at present so needs some settling, but this is quite structured juice. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @castelmonsanto  castellomonsanto  @castello.dimonsanto

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (383604, $19.95, WineAlign)

The producer notes that the Annata “is both field blend and a cellar cuvée into a worth greater than the sum of Monterinaldi’s single vineyards.” The Castle of Monte Rinaldi is situated in the commune of Radda in Chianti and this sangiovese helps to amagine the air inside, closed and somewhat musty. This Chianti Classico is reserved, not giving too much away at such a young stage. What speaks now is more earth than fruit, with quite a clay grain running through and a hollowness to the mid-palate. Indeed “the Annata usually starts life in a secretive way before conceding herself.” Drink 2019-2021. Tasted February 2017  @monterinaldi  C & E Worldfinds  @monterinaldi  #monterinaldi

Cigliano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (189803, $19.95, WineAlign)

Deep, dark and sombre inhalant of grand vineyard fruit in the premium selezione vein, this is indeed a sobering San Casciano in Val di Pesa Chianti Classico with wild berries, herbs and drops of fine liqueur, almost like Vin Santo but without sugar. Cigliano takes a certain road for 2014 and gets away with murder. This could have turned out hot and bothered but the balance is struck by chords of great acidity and tension. This pulls no sangiovese or vintage punches and is clearly the work of a rogue winemaker. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017    DB Wine & Spirits  @VilladelCigliano  Fattoria Cigliano

Fattoria Di Corsignano Chianti Classico La Coppia 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

From Castelnuovo Berardenga and quite the aromatic exotica, of cinnamon, a touch of clove but not too much, nearly and veering volatile but not in a breezy way. It’s an intense potpourri and a very sour-tart palate but the fruit is sound and clear. More old-school than at first thought of and quite tannic but the hue, texture, structure and potential are all pure sangiovese the way it’s supposed to be. Nothing modern, fetischistic or ambitious about it. Will live a decade or more, but it has to be your cup of sangiovese style. Regardless it’s just the vintage done right. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted February 2017   @corsignano  @tenutadicorsignano  Don Ackerman’s Wines & Spirits  fattoriadicorsignano

Fattoria Terreno Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The typically stony and gravelly galestro south by southwest terraced vineyard at 350m sits in the heart of the Greve Valley. Its sangiovese (with 10 pert cent merlot) resides on the extracted, modern and expressive shore, of black cherry and cabernet sauvignon-esque Cassis meets Ribena. A deep inhalant with mint, clove and menthol repetition. Some pleasantries and expressiveness exist gainfully  on the palate. Quite bright and full of flavour, savour and grip. Really ripe and get me sangiovese.  Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2017   @terrenovino  #fattoriaterreno

 

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (933317, $36.95, WineAlign)

No surprise here from stalwart Fontodi, to take a difficult vintage, push vanity aside and select the best fruit for a pure expression of sangiovese, natural and organically made, with precision and clarity. The red Panzano fruit spikes with cran-pom-rasp-currant bursting freshness. iI’s just the right amount of tart and sapid, carefully rippling in acidity. So well made. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017    @rogcowines  Az. Agr. Fontodi  #fontodi

Fontodi Chianti Classico Filetta Di Lamole 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $35.95, WineAlign)

From the “forgotten corner of Chianti Classico,” Lamole of Greve in Chianti is perched in a natural amphitheatre between Volpaia to the south and Panzano to the west. Some of the vineyard’s older vines are still pruned in the alberello (bush) style. This is Giovanni Manetti’s inaugural vintage of the Filetta in cohorts with his cousin. So, decidedly a diffident partner and opposing force to the Fontodi Annata because the earthy-subterranean dwelling aromatics brood beneath the red, verging to riper and darker fruit. There is a liquor, aperitif amaro-ness to the Lamole. The clay must be darker and more compressed. The balance is struck though on deeper, more brooding and warmer alcohol-felt lines and in 2014, as if it were a Riserva. It’s an oak “vessel’ aged 100 per cent sangiovese, as opposed to other the estate’s usual use of barriques. It is perhaps counterintuitive but this acts more evolved than the “normale.” Neither better or worse but enjoyment time is now. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    @rogcowines  Az. Agr. Fontodi  #fontodi

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Incidentally the first vintage on which the label reads organic, 2014 captures the freshness and the true Chianti Classico, its nature and its truth. No mask, nothing to hide behind, nowhere to run. “In some ways 2014 is more typical a vintage,” suggests Iacopo Morganti, because like other passed over and quickly assessed ones of the recent past (such as 1996, 1998 and 2008) the intrepid purity of sangiovese is decisive and built to last. This is deeply hued Chianti Classico, refreshing, spirited and crafted with a very specific type of actionable drinkability. With pasta, with filetto, with friends. Will not change course for four years and drink comfortably for four more. Sangiovese accented with canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nero. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @Ilmolinodigrace  Il Molino Di Grace  Frontier Wine Merchants  ilmolinodigrace

La Querce Seconda Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From the most northern Chianti Classico vineyard located in the area of San Casciano Val di Pesa, La Querce Seconda by Niccolá Bernabei is high-spirited, of tart to volatile brightest of bright red fruit with toasted fennel to nose. Quite a tart palate as well with furthered  spirit and quite sweet tannin. This is old school but alive and vital. Will live this kind of life for a spell.  Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2017    @LaQuerceSeconda  laquerceseconda

Le Fonti di Panzano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (282848, $26.95, WineAlign)

From organic sangiovese from Vicky Schmitt-Vitali in Panzano this Annata caries a most unique sweet, candied nose, part cotton and part hard shell on red delicious apple. Also turkish delight, unusually so, especially for 2014 Chianti Classico. Very ripe fruit with what noses as perhaps a few botrytis berries in the mix. That said it drinks really well with solid acid levels and firm but immediately gratifying engaged tannins. Le Fonti’s is the deepest well of ripe sangiovese offering exceptional consumer appeal for the here and now. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017  @LeFontiPanzano  Fattoria Le Fonti – Panzano  @TheVine_RobGroh  @thevineto  poderelefonti

L’Erta Di Radda Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

No shrinker this L’Erta Di Radda, the deep clay and what smells perhaps like galestro and certainly an affinity with the Colle Bereto style, if here more of a pressed brooder. Convincing and precise of Radda soils rich in both galestro and alberese, a depth of everything is counted quickly and then countered with grip in tannic structure. This is serious sangiovese, a deep inhalant, welling with aromatic texture and the avidity of layered ripe fruit. I find it exceptional for the vintage. Everything about this is place, terroir, territory, tradition and ambition. Wow. This may be one of the best ’14’s period. Great structure-acidity to tannin continuum. A vacuum of moving parts all in unison and seamless despite the rage inside its machine. Plums and pepper on the finish with great grains of chalky-pebbles, fine, pearly, pomegranate/sour cherry, tapioca like. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017 @lerta.diradda 

Machiavelli Solatio Del Tani Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From Grupo Italiano Vini and located in San Casciano Val di Pesa. With s distant connection to exiled Florentine Niccolo Machiavelli on the  of the ancient Fontalle estate the Solatio Del Tani is a bit dark and brooding, “solace for now” in sangiovese pressed for impression. Then the geosmin factor steps up as it goes sweaty and confined, musty and reductive. The reduction is more than the idea of the bacterial but at the end of the solstice there is some not so clean fruit in here. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017      @VillaMachiavelli  #villamachiavelli

Montefioralle Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

An ambitous ’14 Greve in Chianti Classico of a welling pool filled with cherries steeping in strong herbal, mint and potpourri, aromaticized and certainly romanticized as a sangiovese dream. This has Riserva aspirations and modern Brunello styling. Very commercial, quite delicious and ready to please. Sweetness on the palate confirms it all. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017     Montefioralle Winery  Castello Di Montefioralle  montefioralle

Il Palagio di Panzano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Not to be confused with the Sting-Toscana IGT-Message in a Bottle thing, this is from the truly Chianti Classico-sangiovese- Conca d’Oro-Monia Piccini and Franco Guarducci Il Palagio di Panzano. Quite pretty and pitch vintage perfect for 2014, accomplished with step-back care and respect. Reeks well and fine of the land, dusty, soil savoury and sweet herbal garnish fancy. Quite simply what the vintage wanted, requested and in this balanced CC, to with has been complied. There is a proper sense of tension and fine-grained tannin to bring it all together. Drink 2018-2021.   Tasted February 2017 @palagiodipanzano  palagiopanzano

Piegaia Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

If the 2014 Chianti Classico vintage was a summons to contest then it was winemaker Sebastiano Capponi that met it head on. Challenging weather and low yields tested mettle and solicited acumen so just as the Villa Calcinaia won the battle, so does the Piegaia. My rudimentary understanding would take this to mean “pious earth,” and it is the clay, silt and mineral Greve in Chianti soil that helps to define this wine. Here is inter-personal sangiovese, umami-aromatic, salato e piccante. There may be less refinement (and maturity) than the older sibling but it does not lack for varietal purity or classic character. Piegaia also confirms if perhaps expands on the tart flavours that define sangiovese, with natural acidity and non-combative tannins. I can’t think of a wine list that wouldn’t benefit from this juicy, organic and time-honoured Chianti Classico. Drink 2017-2020.   Tasted May 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

As with the coming unrestricted vintage, the 2014 get together is 90 per cent sangiovese and (10) merlot but such a different animal. The acidity needed to be stronger for deferential (but classic) fruit squeezed from minuscule yields after so much rain. It all called for the requiem of very strict selection and there is this rusticity in ’14 along with so much more herbology and perfume. Roses and fennel, less fruit, more perfume. There is structure in 2014 and it is a wine that will develop secondary character because of the umami that is necessary without as much fruit due to sun deprivation. Frutti di bosco sharing equal aromatic time with frutti di conifere. Walks a more traditional, taut, direct and unconsolidated sedimentary line for Chianti Classico, with time travel ability to a future blooming with Angiosperms. It’s simple really. The sangiovese usually reserved for Corbezzolo went to Riserva and for Riserva relegated to Chianti Classico. Structure is not compromised. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted February 2017      #poderelacappella  Natascia Rossini

Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

In the Greve in Chianti Scalette way this takes traditional methodology and strides confidently into the CC future. Shows what a year can effect on this fruit, with deeper richness than ’15 despite the vintages purporting the opposite. The palate tells the real story here with great acids and fine tannin enveloping, protecting and sealing in the purity of the fruit. This has depth and structure. It’s quite the mouthful, brings history into the present and services Chianti Classico with classicism and possibility. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @ProfileWineGrp    Podere Poggio Scalette  #poderepoggioscalette

Querciabella Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (728816, $37.95, WineAlign)

I am at first quite surprised by the aromatic candy and volatility on this Greve in Chianti Querciabella when considered after the extraordinarily balanced 2013 recently tasted. But this ’14 is still silly young and the sweet opening is just a portal in which to crawl through. Once inside there is this specific liquor, a pool filled with more wealth of sangiovese fruit than the basin can currently hold. So it’s spilling over the edges in its youth and it’s simply too much for the glass to hold. I think the house took this a bit too far in reaction to ’14’s weather and a bit of balance has been compromised. I’m not sure this will ever find the elegance that ’13 showed but it does match the ripeness and the necessary triumvirate opposition forces of grip, acid and tannin. Huge wine. Maybe it just needs five years to settle into its skin because of course the fruit is red bright, not dark, hematic and brooding. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017  @Querciabella  @rogcowines  @querciabella  querciabella  querciabella

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Renzo Marinai’s Chianti Classico comes from down in the colata of the Conca d’Oro, across the valley from Carobbio. I tasted the 90 per cent sangiovese plus 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon with Managing Director Janmario Hero Reina who tells me that the vintage dictated production of only Annata, so no Riserva and No Gran Selezione, In this fact of matter way Marinai separates itself from other estates but the decisions are also driven by location. After all, Panzano is the organic centre of the Chianti Classico universe. Few CC’s carry this kind of weight, structure and depth of liqueur steeping fruit. There is a touch of pretty volatility so the traditional weight presses upon this sangiovese but it’s a smooth running operator. Needs a year to settle and integrate. Drink 2018-2024.  Drink February 2017    #renzomarinai  Renzo Marinai Panzano

Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (741769, $18.95, WineAlign)

A year in bottle has been kind to what Sergio Zingarelli refers to as “our most important wine,” a VINTAGES essential that despite the low yields, still kept up the quantity in 2014. This was made possible by fruit gathered from near and far by growers engaged in the Rocca delle Macie quality ideal. Quite firm and still some tannins run through like fine grains of sand. Tart in just the right balance and a touch of refining sweetness on the finish. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie

Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Even at three years the Rocca di Montegrossi Annata ’14 is too young so with a wink and a nod it is understood why the powers that be should hold back their wines longer for best commercial benefit. The classic Rocca amalgamation of sangiovese with equal (five per cent) addendum by colorino and canaiolo is both traditional and necessary. In Gaiole there is this unwritten mythical and antediluvian law that dictates such practice. Though too much stock should not be placed on which varietals, international or otherwise should support sangiovese, this is Monti in Chianti. Enough said. Big (500L) barrels administer the low-yielding, meticulously selected, certified organic grapes with the most subtle and slightest dusty ride through a decidedly old-school Chianti Classico maturation. Copacetic feelings are provided by dehydrated and consequently ripe rehydrated fruit that turns dark and rich. The firm grip at the back end tells us that two more years of development is needed. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017  #roccadimontegrossi  @RoccadiMontegrossi  Devon Masciangelo  #roccadimontegrossi

Savignola Paolina Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

This sings of of so many Chianti Classico sweet aromatics, ripe red strawberry and raspberry, more palate sweetness and so very easy on the tension. One of the easier, simpler and quietly pleasurable ‘14s, not just from Greve in Chianti but the whole of the territory. Tartness and sour-edged acidity are complimentary if far from elevating. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    Savignola Paolina  savignolapaolina

Vallone de Cecione Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

In Panzano, this organic and biodynamic Chianti Classico is the old, wise and profoundly aromatic sangiovese. It’s also built with tidy structure, due in part no doubt to the canaiolo inclusion from a producer that treats the ancient variety with great respect. Their varietal canaiolo is a bright, elegant and architectural wine. Even 10 per cent canaiolo inclusion here lends credible accent and catalyst support. This CC strands ripeness on account of proportion with beneficial elevated acidity melting into richness. It offers the whole package in 2014. Drink 2018-2024.   Tasted February 2017    #vallonedicecione  @vallonedicecione

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

From a challenging and low-yielding vintage that took away more than it gave. The varied renditions of Chianti Classico are all over the map so it’s a revelation to come across Sebastiano Capponi’s calm and beautiful ’14 life. His is a sangiovese that was allowed to just be itself, aromatic to savoury, immune from the pressures placed upon by vintage and expectation. Calcinaia’s is a Greve in Chianti of roses, violets, more amenability than most ‘14s and without any real bother from the barrel. Quite pure with very mature sangiovese flavours, circulating and by extension from natural acidity. The length is exceptional for annata. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Chianti Classico DOCG 2013

Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (168286, $23.95, WineAlign)

A rich liquere, weight and warmth define this sangiovese from Castellina in Chianti by Tomasso and Federico Marrocchesi Marzi. While the old school leather, cherries and steeping liquor are in line with many Brunello this is pure Chianti Classico and not Riserva. The clarity and purity of fruit make that determination even if the wine is warm to mulled in feeling. Will settle a bit and develop its mushroom, truffle and forest floor nuances sooner rather than later. For fans of bold CC and the way it can be thought as has to be. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted January 2017  @bibbianowines  VineWhys Wine Experts  @tenutacarobbio  bibbianowines

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Nine months later so provocative and round, still imbued of the deep pulpier purple Il Molino di Grace hue with ruby tinges. Floral but not bursting, warm, in control and easy. Manages fruit purity and then by extension, the grip from 100 per cent sangiovese. Now gelling into a liqueur typical of ’13, smooth and rapidly developing into a multi-faceted sip. A drink earlier in full enjoyment vintage.  Last tasted February 2017

The 2013 point blank sangiovese Chianti Classico is a softer, rounder version of its normale self, with less spice and dust and as a matter of course, from double the output. A dreamy downy growing season saw to 100,000 bottles and each are so eminently drinkable. There is a soil in there that seeps through because of the vintage, that combination of marl and limestone known locally as galestro and so while the concentration is wontedly in measure to 2012, it is ultimately just a matter of differing result. One wine’s pale is another one’s edge. This ’13 will present for immediate pleasure while ’12 spends one more year coming into view. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted May 2016  @Ilmolinodigrace   Il Molino Di Grace  Frontier Wine Merchants  ilmolinodigrace

Fattoria La Presura Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

La Presura’s Greve in Chianti is indeed under pressure sangiovese with volatility and orange zest all over the nose. This is microbial big time, with nothing left to show on the palate, save perhaps some old raspberry and a bite into a brick wall. Drink 2017.   Tasted February 2017  @www.lapresura.it  #fattorialapresura

Ormanni Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Ormanni’s is Castellina in Chianti sangiovese of such a beautiful beginning, a demurred, soft and kind-hearted one. Pure red berry fruit and a downy disposition. The palate is less so, with some deep liqueur lost to the drift. Good acidity and grip though in the end a bit commercial and simple so like the Riserva ’10 from a similar vintage, not the finest value around. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017    Rogers & Company  #ormanni

Calcinaia 1959

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico 2013 is a Greve in Chianti by-product of what winemaker Conte Sebastiano Capponi will refer to as a cooler vintage. Elongated ripening was trespassed by early September rain so harvest was delayed. Capponi’s tredici Annata is a demurred and soft one, as if the low-lying cloud-cover created a protective environmental layer to keep the perfume of sangiovese perfectly intact and now omnipresent on the aromatics. This is textured CC of a gentle touch and round acidity, pretty, feminine and downy. Fans of the scuola femminile style will live and breathe this in for its first few years. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $35.95, WineAlign)

Villa di Geggiano’s 2013 Annata had only been in bottle one week at the time of tasting so kudos to its confidence, stage presence and all around acumen to show this well. The richness of fruit in this Siena and proximate Castelnuovo Berardenga (Vignone di Geggiano) sangiovese is ushered forth by 18 months in (500L plus 10 per cent new 225L) French barrels. A minor (three to five) per cent augment of cabernet sauvignon distills lush rounding though aromatically speaking this still sits in a state of quiet demure. Geggiano has come a long way since I first visited the estate in 1995. Brothers Alessandro and Andrea Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli, his son Gregorio and partner Malcolm Caplan have led the 16th century estate from a time when wine production was mostly personal and parochial to fashioning Chianti Classico and IGT of international ability. Certified organic and fast forward thinking practices such as the use of dry ice during pressing brings cold temperature freshness to CC, less oxidation and as a result, lower sulphur usage too. This is really grippy sangiovese, fine spun, pure and full bodied-wood spice structured. It’s also gentle and very representative of the Ponte e Bozzone terroir. Geology, earth, time and place. Lovely. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @VilladiGeggiano  @BarrelSelect  villa_di_geggiano  andreaboscu  barrelselect  @VilladiGeggiano  @barrelselectinc

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Trasqua’s from the Hulsbergen brothers (Alan and Sven) out of an idyllic, naturally rippling and undulating Castellina in Chianti bowl is 100 per cent sangiovese. I have to admit to fully agreeing with Sven when he tells me “you can drink this with red sauce.” I did in fact follow him up on this and tasted it alongside one prepared by him at the estate. The round, soft yet structured CC was, for the vintage and the pasta a perfect match. It’s that simple and you should try it, on a Monday night, as we did, in Chianti Classico, or anywhere else. This is traditional with its tart and edgy red fruit and some tannin. More than that is its smoke and smoulder, coming as it has from eight months in big barrels, eight more in concrete and finally, steel. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017      @tenutavillatrasqua  @HULSI_II  Frontier Wine Merchants  villatrasqua

Chianti Classico DOCG 2012

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (SAQ, 908228, $21.80, WineAlign)

A 100 per cent  Castelnuovo Berardenga sangiovese with floral entry that waltzes in with really pretty albeit traditional red sour fruit aromatics and then stops for all the room to stare. The palate tells me this is no lightweight as it is the terroir and the soil herein that really speaks. It’s a calcareous clay, a red clay perhaps with some variegation. This is old school, firm and decisive CC. It is ready and will drink well for another year or two, not beyond mind you so go, now. Drink 2017-2019.   Tasted February 2017  Castell In Villa  Les Importations Olea inc.  marino_castellinvillarestauran

Il Barlettaio Chianti Classico 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From Radda in Chianti, 100 per cent sangiovese and help back like a student a grade behind to get it just right. Sees 24 months in barriques followed by a further 12 bottle, there is nothing about this I would not refer to as old-school, traditional, classic or otherwise. It’s quite firm and internalized, antithetical to the modern concept of Annata Chianti Classico, layered aromatically upon itself with a distinct note of raspberry, sandalwood and the humidity of the earth. So confident, set to purpose and rich without lingering wood or pressed for impressive impression. There is some natural fruit, soil sweetness and the wood melted, integrated, dissolved and nearly disappeared. The evolutionary process has brought about the right time to be with the sangiovese you love. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @barlettaio    ilbarlettaio

The #alberese of #querciavalle #pontiganello @valerialosi #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

The vintage and five years have seen to some evolution but the tannins remain and persist, firm, grippy and intense. The personality celebrates many generations of winemaking from the family’s south-facing “Leccino” vineyard, a place of high ground sandstone, plus Galestro and Albarese lower down. Sangiovese and canaiolo see 18 months in 50 hL barrels and in concrete. This is very traditional Chianti Classico of rational barrel influence, natural and poetic, both polemical and persuasive. Incarnadine fruit polished and clashing with mixed soil minerality adds up to a wealth of Chianti Classico riches. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted February 2017  @Valerialosi  @NaturalVines  @marzia_gallo  valerialosi  @famiglialosi  Valeria Losi  Marzia Gallo

Rocca di Cispiano Chianti Classico La Rocca 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Located in Castellina in Chianti. Bright and shower curtain volatile and severely old school. One hand will ask for more time but the other will tell you this will all magnify and increase. Extracted but hollow, alora, something went missing here. Drink 2017.  Tasted February 2017  @roccadicispiano  roccadicispiano

Villa Montepaldi Chianti Classico Tagliafune 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From vines in San Casciano Val Di Pesa this is a lovely demurred and ultra-ripe Chianti Classico with now perhaps the exact amount of optimum time slid beneath its belt. Joins the dark side of the fruit spectrum with some fig, a layer of caramelization, chocolate, balsamic and the beginning soft soy and five-spice. Has seen its fair share of affectation characterized by wood in a big way (barriques it would seem) so you must decide which camp you are from. This is classic sangiovese but recent classic, like 1995-2005 with real citrus pith and bitters on the finish. It’s highly complex but not the cleanest CC in camp. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017   @VillaMontepaldi    villamontepaldi

Chianti Classico DOCG 2011

Sottol’aia Chianti Classico La Lama 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Castelnuovo Berardenga. Really pretty inhalant, deep but fresh and certainly with thanks to humidity, balance and delineation in the soil. A combinative excellence met for fruit through earth and into sapidity. There is some older barrel chocolate and a whiff of vanilla in this grown-up juice but all is well where balance is concerned. This comes from winemaking with many tears of expertise, an understanding of the world, trends, reality and what type of CC must be made from this terroir.  Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  #SottoLAia  #sottolaia

Solatione Chianti Classico 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

San Casciano Val di Pesa. Firm, perfectly evolved from really pure fruit and lovely texture. acidity continues to manage the striking raspberry resemblance in a dry, really fine-lined, direct and just ever so slightly microbial CC. This is right in that Rioja-CC aged and will continue to age beautifully wheelhouse. Expert classic winemaking. Speaks a true vernacular. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017    #solatione

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014

Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (508507, $29.95, WineAlign)

Castellina in Chianti. If you could imagine sangiovese inside a vacuum or whirling with intense speed lost inside a void you might just get a picture of Castellare’s 2014 CCR. Well what you really find is the vintage itself in Riserva form this early in life. To make Riserva from the mountain scaling challenge you had to be more selective with grapes and barrels than almost ever but with so few Riserva quality grapes and certainly no visions of Gran Selezione the Riserva is king. This is buzzing, percolating, spinning in centrifuge. The fruit is markedly intense and the acidity reeling. A piercing Riserva wound with extreme tightness and if overly sour just blame it on the youth. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2017  @CastellareWines  @CastellarediCastellina  @DionysusWines  @DionysusWinesTO  #castellaredicastellina

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

The difficulties presented by the vintage were determinate in excluding the Gran Selezione Bellezza from production so it is that bottle’s loss that became the Riserva’s gain. The single vineyard’s 2014 yield may not have been stellar but its significance is not lost on the overall Riserva gathering, down 40 per cent in quantity. It is here that we see the expertise of a winemaker like Federico Cerelli, to work with new parameters literally thrown at him by chaos and uncertainty. Less than 18,000 bottles came out of 2014 and the wine saw its expected time in barriques and botti, none of which were new. This is CCR of sangiovese brightness meets firm ’14 grip. The varietal freshness is preserved in ways previous vintages were not. Once again this incumbent year is put on vivid display, befallen to knowing hands and forward thinking minds. The aging potential here is excellent. From San Casciano in Val di Pesa. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted February 2017  @castgabbiano  @MarkAnthonyWine  castellodigabbiano  markanthonyon  @castellogabbiano  Ivano Reali (Castello Di Gabbiano)

Dievole Chianti Classico Riserva Novecento 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

So not surprising considering the ripe and rich house style but do not be fooled. The vintage rules and youth is a rebellious and renegade thing. Dievole’s is a meeting of the extracted and the terse but it’s also graced by really sweet and tight, tight-grained tannins. This needs years to unwind and meld its mineral-chalky spice into its formidable structure. Drink 2020-2026. Tasted February 2017  @Dievole  @dievole  dievole

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (382945, $23.95, WineAlign)

Riserva 2014 is certainly positioned further down that democratic line from the Chianti Classico, its hue more variegated with three to four variations of shade and fruit still popping fresh. These two pronto pieces of personality are the hallmarks of the Il Molino di Grace style and singularity. To employ such darker fruit without any compromise to freshness, this is the magic of this place. Iacopo Morganti says there is no magic. “I like to see the colour of the vintage.” It is true, 2014 is one of purple violet fruit so it speaks of a time. As a Riserva it demonstrates guts and creates a shell of protection for itself, sufferable to whoever thinks it may fail to validate the idea of a classic vintage, which it most certainly will turn out to be. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017  @Ilmolinodigrace  Il Molino Di Grace  Frontier Wine Merchants  ilmolinodigrace  ilmolinodigrace

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico Riserva Querciolo 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $46.95, WineAlign)

The most recent release of Podere La Cappella’s “small oak tree” is a vintage success, as always a sangiovese (90 per cent) and merlot configuration and no other Riserva will ever give such defined perfume and richesse. In this smaller than small crop of a vintage the under-rock current is the galestro and the savoury, here with some spice from increased barrel, though of course no new oak. There is some fine chocolate and there is this sweet defined acidity and tannin. When you taste this side by side by each with the 2012 and the 2013 you begin to note these recurrent themes. The smell of orange skin (and in 2013 it was persimmon) is specific to Querciolo. In the pantheon of CCR this is very refined. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017      #poderelacappella  Natascia Rossini

Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva Famiglia Zingarelli 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (930966, $23.95, WineAlign)

It takes little time to find more ease, balance and immediately agreeable notions from the Zingarelli Castellina in Chianti CCR ’14. This is a wine that belies the vintage and the early to market release. The fruit is very ripe and supported by relatively copacetic acidity and tannin. The intention here is surely geared towards early gratification to imbibe while so many others gather their collective 2014, Chianti Classico Riserva thoughts. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted February 2017  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $43.95, WineAlign)

In the low-yielding vintage like 2014 the current state of Villa Calcinaia’s Chianti Classico Riserva shows the signs of a growth stock as opposed to one that is generating lots of cash. This sangiovese is obviously young and not yet telling its Riserva tale, nevertheless I find it quite soothing and cool but really without any herbs or savour (to speak of). Tannins are fine but not so sweet (like ’13) so this wine begs for more time. Its length and it’s quietude will confirm such a request. The return will be generous and a just reward for those who have exercised patience. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Highlights from #cc17 #chianticlassicoriserva 2013

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva Montornello 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Montornello is 100 per cent sangiovese grown on the eponymous northern slope, the one with the variegated soil. Montornello is the (five million years) younger of Bibbiano’s two geologies, a platform of several types of partly calcareous, loose clay; red, yellow, amber and white. As floral as the ’14 annata but more mellow, serious and of a noted confidence. Some barriques are employed but the fruit is not shrouded in any way. Scents of liquorice again, plus graphite, a toasty char, warm tar and some beneficial bitters. Finishes strong, seamless and cool. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017   @bibbianowines  VineWhys Wine Experts  bibbianowines  @bibbianowines

A river of adroit style runs through it @bibbianowines #ingenuity #uncluttered #succession #precision #chianticlassico #chianticlassicoriserva #granselezione #bibbianaccio #tomassomarocc

Ca’ Di Pesa Chianti Classico Riserva Burrone 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Despite reservations or perhaps with great hope from the simplest of labels, like looking for the grail and choosing the least adorned chalice, this is a revelatory 2013 Riserva. So simple, bright and honest. It may have spent Riserva time in barrel but they were certainly large ones and old as the winemakers’s grandparents. What is so special however is the purity and prurient clarity of fruit and even more the way the fruit plays so nicely in the sandbox with the gentle infiltration of Greve in Chianti soil. This has acidity and mild tannin, will age for years without knowledge of its own passage in time or any one knowing any change has taken place, then fade gracefully into the sunset. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted February 2017    @cadipesa  cadipesa

Capanelle Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy

Reductive, hard and fast Gaiole in Chianti winemaking have shocked the fruit’s system and rendered this nearly paralyzed in its youth. Chalky, tart, grainy and lacking acidity. Will peak and then fade quickly Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017

Peaceful afternoon in February light at #carrobio #chianticlassico #panzano

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $58.95, WineAlign)

For Chianti Classico Riserva the solo performance is 100 per cent sangiovese and just as 2013 must be this grabs you by the olfactory senses with elegant inhalant immediacy. You are immersed straight away into a wine without reserve in the way that the only the purest of Riserva can be. Philanthropic, generous and kind. Even more so and because it is Carobbio, there is no fence to jump over, hoop to hurl through or great wall to climb. Not in aroma and then what follows is palate texture and finally fine-grained tannin. Not even acidity will lash out but rather support, with more kindness. Everything is presented from the start with a wisdom that doesn’t rely on oxidative or cured character. Just elegance. Rich and affirming, for sangiovese and life. Humour this CCR ’13 and wait just one more year, per il rispetto. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @Tenuta_Carobbio  @apparitionwines  @chianticlassico  @ChiantiClassUSA  @tenutacarobbio  carobbio_wine

Casa al Vento Chianti Classico Riserva Foho 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Foho is the “fire” in Tuscany, an organic Chianti Classico Riserva from Gaiole in Chianti and like the ’14 Annata it’s similarly striking, bright, vivid and for 2013, vintage driven. There is a slight musty note to dredge the earth a bit and put this in a dry, simply stated realm. A small percentage of merlot and 18 months in barrel rounds out the edges. A demurred Riserva to be sure. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @casaalvento  borgocasaalvento  @AgriturismoChiantiCasaAlVento

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

First and foremost it is the wood, or the lack of wood that stands out in the CCR 2013. It may be observed as a different kind of wood, less polished and more natural but what really wins out is the fruit. The cherries are surfeited by impressed tannin and linger with good tonic for a good length of time. Great restraint shown by winemaker Federico Cerelli. From San Casciano in Val di Pesa. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted June 2016 and February 2017  @castgabbiano  @MarkAnthonyWine  castellodigabbiano  markanthonyon  @castellogabbiano  Ivano Reali (Castello Di Gabbiano)

Castello Di Paneretta Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

As sweet, floral and fine on the aromatic scale as there is likely to be found from CCR 2013 and that says something. Raspberry purée spreads all over the nose and continues onto the palate with more sweetness and dusty notes. I sense a higher percentage of canaiolo in this CCR. Likely 10 per cent at least and there’s certainly not anything wrong with that. It’s quite delicious in a savoury dessert kind of way. Very commercial friendly and eminently drinkable CCR from Barberino Val d’Elsa. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted February 2017  @panerettavino  @HalpernWine  agriturismo Castello della Paneretta  @halpernwine  Castello Della Paneretta  halpernwine  #castellodipaneretta

Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Monsanto’s Chianti Classico Riserva shows the Barberino Val D’Elsa house is clearly fluent in vintage speak because as much as the annata ’14 is deep, savoury and serious, this ’13 is proportionally and deferentially brighter, richly reasoned and chock full of 13’s amenable energy. The strawberry to raspberry realm is covered and though the architectural design is classic, it’s an ornate style (a.k.a. Baroque). This strutting peacock of a Riserva solicits earlier requests for the proverbial dive in, to be poured early and to be enjoyed. Drink 2018-2022.   Tasted February 2017  @castelmonsanto  castellomonsanto  @castello.dimonsanto

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Colle Bereto’s is just one of those Chianti Classico Riservas that seem caught in the nether land between shy reservation and greatness. The nose speaks but not yet with what it really wants to say. I’d call it serious but what it really is seems so much more than that. The Radda terroir and the great curving amphitheatre of slopes is what matters, not the barrel or just the talents of a great winemaker, though both offer up respectfully obvious interference. The travel from aromatics to palate with texture and into the stabilizing and configuring components of acidity and tannin are all perfectly aligned. The melting pastille texture and effortless lingering of fruit tells me the stars are aligned, not quite in single-vineyard beneath the ancient monastery of perfect exposure way but a really close and respectful second. I imagine this is about as perfect a vintage for Bernardo Bianchi’s  CCR as there ever has or will be. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2017    @NokhrinWines  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto  #colleberetowinery

I Sodo Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

I Sodi’s Gaiole in Chianti Riserva is on the volatile and over the top youthful side but you can really get a grip upon the terrific red berry and herbal-savoury accents. Certainly led by raspberry but red currants are quite prevalent. Must admit the palate leaves a fuller and more demanding impression which is always important as opposed to the other way around. The change of gears from accelerated vitesse to grip on the road around turns and into pits is a sign of great Italian design. The finish carries dried fruit and compressed acidity with not overly aggressive tannin. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  Agriturismo Le Trappoline – Azienda Agricola I Sodi

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (382945, $23.95, WineAlign)

A better vintage for Riserva (as it is in Chianti Classico for merlot) because of the warmth and highest available poly-phenolic qualities. A return here to deep purple, Il Molino di Grace’s ’13 Riserva is akin to 2009 (though seemingly more in control of its fruit) and also with thanks somewhat like ’14 Chianti Classico, popping, fresh and with its stark moments. It is necessary to stick around, keep checking the glass and it too will lead you down a sexy, sultry, sumptuous road. Shows signs of 2010 in these flaunting ways, with a forward and upwards trajectory through the notions drawn from its very specific Panzano territory. There is chocolatey richness mixed with driving acidity, because “this is the vintage.” Will live long enough, perhaps developing some exoticism and balsamic and/or mushroom notes after seven or eight years time. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @Ilmolinodigrace  Il Molino Di Grace  Frontier Wine Merchants  ilmolinodigrace

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

This services one of the more interesting aromatic entries thus far, not quite exotic but certainly different. It’s partly reduction, genesis and youth but also a certain soil plus some new barrel. Perhaps the most tannic wine tasted all day, this is way, way too young to gain any sense early of. The structural steel and petrified wood components are massive and untouchable, immovable and indestructible. There is great fruit lurking there and that soil, “under the soil, the soil, the soil, yes, deep in the soil.” So wait at least three years before supper’s ready. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2017  @palagiodipanzano

Le Fonti di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $33.75, WineAlign)

More special organic Panzano sangiovese here from Vicky Schmitt-Vitali for Riserva this time, surely floral and beautiful but also with some vintage heat on the nose. More than brevity; essence or essential oils of and also smoky, charred meat and forest floor in warm sunlight. Big bright, naturally curated red, chewy, extremely chewy, some chalky substance but nearly liquified, plenty of acidity and so very Panzano. The Galestro runs through this like a beam of laser light. Really airtight example of modern CCR without resorting to the barrel’s swath or crème. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @LeFontiPanzano  Fattoria Le Fonti – Panzano  @TheVine_RobGroh  @thevineto  poderelefonti

Melini Chianti Classico Riserva Vigneti La Selvanella 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From southwest facing,  mainly alberese soils on estate vineyards in the commune of Radda in Chianti, this is a youthful, full-mouthful of rich and barrel-influenced sangiovese, but the fruit is decidedly red and chewy, not soft and chocolate creamy.  This has plenty of monolith coating tannin and needs two years to integrate, including the beneficial bitters. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2017

Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The Brett monster has come to play. The nose is all volatility mixed with deep red fruit and variegated clay. The palate is swathed in texture, some bitter chocolate and intensity, merging to join the volatile acidity. Time may take both by the horns and settle the merging beast. Character abounds but just how much can you take? From Greve in Chianti.  Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2017    Montefioralle Winery  Castello Di Montefioralle

Fattoria Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Like the 2015 Chianti Classico from San Casciano in Val di Pesa tasted before, the Fattoria Nunzi Conti CCR is a just, beautifully floral and gingerly aromatic sangiovese with the faintest whiff of toast and smoulder. A sumptuously textured red berry sangiovese with great acidity, bright and zinging, followed by the kind of calcareous-chalky texture that recalls red citrus fruits and a red bleed of rock from clay. This will last a long time. It has both the fruit and the stuffing. Drink 2019-2028. Tasted February 2017    @famiglianunzicont  Antonio Nunzi Conti

Ormanni Chianti Classico Riserva Borro Del Diavolo 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (435149, $42.95, WineAlign)

Borro Del Diavolo, “The Devil’s Gully” is a stunner in 2013, of very ripe and bright red fruit, some tart to note on the nose intertwined with tang. As before it’s a Riserva of really persistent ambition and large-scale balance, not to mention massive tannic structure. It succeeds in carrying all of its massive moving parts together, thanks in large part to the generosity and in turn, the mimic of the vintage. Not a CCR for the immediate gratification seeker nor the faint of sangiovese heart. Let it rest.  Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2017    Rogers & Company

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

This Riserva picks up right where the ’13 normale left you hanging and wishing for more. As is so often the case when it can be excellent CC but disappointing, or at least, not quite meeting high expectations from CCR. This Querciabella carries the same pure fruit but with another layer of concentration and purity. Where it really excels is in a combinative and almost but not quite too serious combative struggle between texture and structure. The acidity is red tapioca pearly fine and the tannins ridiculously fine. So appreciative of this Burgundian-style, Beaune winemaking for sangiovese. Certainly Premier Cru in quality though in the end, if only by a splitting hair, I will always choose the CC.  Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @Querciabella  @rogcowines  @querciabella  querciabella

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A high-toned Panzano 2013 and very Riserva, of deep strawberry and raspberry fruit, intense and variegated tart palate structure and then a very long finish. The tannic structure is grainy and a bit wild. Expect two years minimum to tame these wild moving parts. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017    #renzomarinai  Renzo Marinai Panzano

Savignola Paolina Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The Greve in Chianti Savignola Paolina comes with a pretty nose, classic, elongated and slightly upturned. Still a bit of reductive winemaking at play but it’s almost ready to open up. Aeration helps and releases the endorphins. It’s one of those wines that softens the grip on the palate and goes all soft, silky and downy. May as well drink up. Pleasant and correct in a 2004 sort of way. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017    Savignola Paolina

Torcibrencoli Chianti Classico Riserva Mariagiaconda 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From Greve in Chianti, the Mariagiaconda, loosely translated as “the lies of Maria,” but in all seriousness is actually named for founders Marcello Pini and Maria Gioconda Bucciolini. A Riserva made by children and grandchildren that is quite bright and somewhat volatile but give it time. Great red citrus joins that old-school aromatic sour-edged and tart winemaking style, with more canaiolo (eight per cent) addition than most. Still it is the sangiovese palate that shows some raisin and evolution though the acidity and tannin are fully engaged. Chocolate and espresso are all over the finish. A wild ride, mostly in a conventional sense but with an unconventional result. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017   @torcibrencoli

Vallepicciola Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The complexity of character in this Chianti Classico Riserva extends straight from the name and throughout its being. More than just the “little one,” the Vallepicciola is like the Wormwood, the holy grass of aromatic plants, assenzio magiorir, dry, without sweetness and sometimes without petioles. The irony is not lost here for the name can also translate to petiole. Certainly an off the charts pH and dry extract sangiovese with 10 per cent merlot, from the south facing Val di Picciola vineyard, left of the Arbia River in Castelnuovo Berardenga. The immediate impression given by this exceptional CCR is one of understanding and balance, with aromatics in the ripe berry and plum spectrum. Plenty of earth on the nose, mostly dry and cool forest floor but also some aromatic leaves, herbs and fronds. Like a fennel, porcini and fiddlehead smoothie, with parsley and basil for savoury measure. Remarkable smooth and silky palate, mouthful and viscous nature, followed by plenty of round acidity and forward tannin. Not quite powerfully tonic, febrifuge or anthelmintic but it needs three years to integrate, settle and tell a tale. I will personally really want to know more about this pure and complex specimen. It just tastes expensive. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @Vallepicciola  @vallepicciola  @vallepicciola

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $43.95, WineAlign)

So very diffident to that annata Chianti Classico, Villa Calcinaia’s Greve in Chianti Riserva 2013 changes a gear (or three), as it should, into a more reductive and yes, reserved sangiovese. The perfume is deeper clay resolved, texture is amplified and the tannins are not only sweeter than the CC but more toothsome than many Riserva. The acidity is very in line with the annata but perhaps also on the sweeter, even a bit more delicate side. This Capponi walks a very balanced, forward, slow gaining of elevation line, like the vineyards themselves the way they rise with facile incline away from the villa and winery. The peaceful easy feeling gifted by this Riserva impresses the estate’s inclinations, something that is reproduced through a miniature architectural rendering of Calcinaia’s property and vineyards. If you ever pay a visit, don’t miss this fascinating model. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2012

Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (47118, $29.95, WineAlign)

Really expressive, extremely tonal sangiovese, inching ever so close to that microbial slash volatility threshold, with red citrus lactic notes dominant early and staying persistent. Turns to tapestry texture on the palate with continued earthy-Bretty character. Sweet fruit is certainly well-extracted and an integral part of that impression. Very long finish, certain as a representative of the vintage and its Greve in Chianti sangiovese roots. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @CarpinetoWines  @UNIVINS  Carpineto Wines  @agence.UNIVINS  carpinetowines  univinscanada

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico Riserva Aluigi 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Yet another most excellent Panzano in Chianti sangiovese, from galestro clay/limestone schist and sandstone soils in a southwest facing vineyard. Only 3,000 bottles are made of what is quite a pretty and pulchritudinous nose with bright, puréed red berry fruit. It’s a warm inhalant to be sure and a fine gain is found running in criss-crossing acidity to match tannin on the palate. The variegation of tang and sour is quite something and will need two years to weave, layer and integrate. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2017    Podere Le Cinciole  “Le Cinciole”

Lornano Chianti Classico Riserva Le Bandite 2012, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (230672, $19.95, WineAlign)

By Ontario standards Chianti Classico Riserva value does not come better than Le Bandite, “the bandits,” a sangiovese drawn like a fine line into white sand. Twenty months in “the big barrels” perpetuates the Silvio Campatelli and Nicolò Pozzoli approach to expose the purity of this 100 per cent varietal expression. The vintage gets its say with firm grip and formidable structure so perhaps the fruit is considered the hunted from these grounds where such activity is prohibited. This ’12 is as big as a Lornano ever really gets, possessive of a Castellina in Chianti meets Montereggioni Tuscan reality, positioned somewhere between the bright and the impossible. Its youth mixed into deep clay settles rigid and full on the palate, like ’09 once did and so a year will be needed to open things up. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @LornanoWines  Frontier Wine Merchants  loran  @lornanochianticlassico

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico Riserva 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

From Barberino Val D’Elsa, this aromatically speaking has it all going on. High tones of some markedly round volatility, extreme brightness of cinnamon heart, tart red fruit and cool, savoury, mint-influenced herbology. Quite the toast, roast and over the top carrying notes. There is just too much of too many good and exaggerated things. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @quercialpoggio  The Small Winemakers Collection  @Smallwinemakers  Quercia al Poggio in Toscana  @smallwinemakerscollection  quercia_al_poggio  

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2011

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico Riserva 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Not unusual for 2011 Riserva, this is still a bit reductive and along with the loaded combination of galestro and heavy clay there is an impressive level of concentration and compression. My how this settles into its profound acceptance of geological contention to express sangiovese with as much sense of place as any with a Castelnuovo Berardenga address. Aromatics are also unique to the Pontignanello terroir, with notes of lemon and pith, orange, pomegranate and some spicy barrel accenting exotica. Not quite incense but not far from it either. The liqueur is simultaneously bright and deep. The sense of setting the compass right to Querciavalle makes this a soulful and poignant CCR to make grandparents proud. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017  @Valerialosi  @NaturalVines  @marzia_gallo  valerialosi  @famiglialosi  Valeria Losi  Marzia Gallo

Machiavelli Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna Di Fontalle 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Machiavelli is located at Sant’ Andrea in Percussina (San Casciano Val di Pesa) and yes, the it is place where the Italian Renaissance historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher, humanist, and writer was exiled. This single-vineyard Riserva Vigna Di Fontalle is jammy, slightly raisined and coming into an oxidative period. It’s a bit past its prime which is too bad because there was at some point some really ripe and expressive,  if now just a bit baked fruit.  Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017    @VillaMachiavelli  #villamachiavelli

Il Palazzino Chianti Classico Riserva Grosso Sanese 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Il Palazzino is owned by Alessandro and Andrea Sderci and is located in Monti in Chianti, in Gaiole in Chianti, 20 km northeast of Siena. Their flagship wine is this Grosso Sanese, a sangiovese of gorgeous aromatic waft with complexities provided by fresh cut roses, deeply mined minerality and fresh sliced morning summer fruit. Great tension, so much more variegation from the earth and a natural, let it be who it is and from laissez-faire from Monti village emotion. This is CCR with true soul and it truly is a really clean and natural wine. Really fine tannin, sweetness from round acidity and architectural design set in the past with innovation for the future. Amazing CCR. Drink 2019-2029. Tasted February 2017    Agriturismo Il Palazzino  #ilpalazzino

Vignavecchia Riserva Chianti Classico Odoardo Beccari 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $33.95, WineAlign)

A consistent and terrific follow-up to 2010 from old vines in Radda in Chianti, this is warm and creeping north (or south depending on your explanatory orientation) from deep, religious aromatics. Fresh slices of fennel bulb and wet concrete are rich, wet, juicy and vaporous. Sweet acidity and tannin join spicy red fruit from what is ostensibly the most unctuous and deeply tangy sangiovese you are likely to ever taste. This is quite something else, both hedonistically indulgent and propitiously wild and engaging. You had better like it hot and bothered, fleshy, gregarious and sexy. This really has it all. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted February 2017  #vignavecchia    @VignaVecchia

Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Older vines are employed for the Riserva (between 25 and 40 years old) from Geggiano’s southern (Castelnuovo Berardenga) Chianti Classico vineyards northeast of Siena and Ponte e Bozzone. Like the Annata the use of carbon dioxide in the vat followed by autochthonous yeasts in steel tanks delivers the first layer of locked in freshness. The next lengthy step sees 18 months in (12 year-old) 500L casks with 15 per cent augment by new 225L barriques. Another year in larger casks (including 2,000L big boys) sets this CCR up for time-delayed/lapse character release and to this day has retained its freshness. So what’s the secret? “It’s not anything we do,” admits Andrea Boscu Bandinelli Bianchi, “it’s our soil.” An aggregate of clay, river silt and Galestro keeps humidity stable and balanced, when the vintage is warm (or not) and for 2011 this is remarkable. It is admittedly calm, gentle and settled but the brightness carries on. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @VilladiGeggiano  @BarrelSelect  villa_di_geggiano  andreaboscu  barrelselect  @VilladiGeggiano  @barrelselectinc

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico Riserva Fanatico 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Though not declared on the label Fanatico is 100 per cent sangiovese in 2011 and very much in line, vein and style to the Annata Chianti Classico. The Bernabei entusiasta/amatore/appassionato for Trasqua’s exceptional Castellina in Chianti terroir comes across with CC amplifications so this does by its nomenclature in attitude, acidity and big red fruit. To stay clear of hyperbole balance was key to the vintage and here struck with firm, grippy and almost gritty amplitude. As a result it’s nearly atypical to traditional but it speaks to the specificity of Trasqua grown sangiovese. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted twice, February 2017     Villa Trasqua  @HULSI_II  Frontier Wine Merchants

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2010

Casuccio Tarletti Chianti Classico Riserva Campoalto 2010, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From the sandy/clay Ponte a Bozzone section of Castelnuovo Berardenga. A bit warm to be sure and on the coulis to jammy side with plenty of aromatic personality. Has hit its secondary stride and the greenery is coming into view; nettles, herbs and ferns. A full-fledged forest floor in late spring or early summer. Some toast and even a flinty note. Mineralogist of sorts from Campoalto and though the tart, slightly reasoned and raisining fruit is leaning to wax, this is the wise old Chianti Classico speaking. Loving the traditional and the classic in full-bodied form is nothing to be ashamed about.  Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017

Fattoria La Ripa Chianti Classico Riserva 2010, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (984401, $26.95, WineAlign)

In Castellina in Chianti Ripa ripeness is a virtue and the road is full of clay. This must be pulled from vines reaching deep into the caked and the crusted because the level of density through structure is felt with palpable concentration. It’s a bit stinky and minutely Bretty but well within acceptable reason. Plenty of black cherry blossom and chocolate on the nose in a semi-confected way. Large specimen of CCR, full on, in and with the big barrel inside. Acidity still rages and tannin coats with gamey and hematic brush. Huge wine. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017    Nicolas Caramelli  nicolascaramelli  #fattorialaripa

Piemaggio Chianti Classico Riserva Le Fioraie 2010, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Le Fioraie is a flower garden indeed, filled with the love, demure and the grace in its aromatics; fresh and dried flowers, gardenia of lavender and rosemary, plus roses and even violets. Really ripe and tender fruit remains in great shape though not ushered along by any true sense of acidity or furthering structure. This represents Castellina in Chianti with the sort of exemplary CCR for current contemplative sipping. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @Piemaggio  piemaggio

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2009

Casa Di Monte Chianti Classico Riserva Le Capitozze 2009, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Le Capitozze is a Riserva captured from the estate’s best grape selection out of the Chiesanuova Vineyard in San Casciano Val di Pesa. Here some age and extract signals a return to aromatic raspberry purée though curiously without the dusty, jammy Bordeaux stylistic so sangiovese is categorically preserved in the varietal display. Secondary life has come to this ’09 CCR, with a roasted meat note and sweet tannic interplay. There still persists a red citrus acidity on the finish so three of four more years will find “The Captains” drinking well. “Elegante e leggermente?” É vero. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  Azienda agricola Casa di Monte  #capitozze

A taste of @VilladiGeggiano poured from a fountain of @chianticlassico youth #bianchibandinelli #villadigeggiano #castelnuovoberardenga #chianticlassico #chianticlassicoriserva #cc17 #ga

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2007

Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2007, Docg Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

A warm and balanced vintage, older vines (between 20 and 35 years old) speak straight to me though proprietor Andrea Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli prefers his 2006. Geggiano’s Castelnuovo Berardenga Chianti Classico vineyards are located northeast of Siena and Ponte e Bozzone, a terroir composed of clay, river silt and galestro. Clean, pure and bright, this could easily pass for 2011, or even 2013. The aromatic brightness eases the mind and prepares the palate for the 10 year development of grit and power so in the end there is equity that leads to elegance. Chianti Classico Riserva as a gift of experience. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @VilladiGeggiano  @BarrelSelect  villa_di_geggiano  andreaboscu  barrelselect  @VilladiGeggiano  @barrelselectinc

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2014

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione San Lorenzo 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (418897, $48.95, WineAlign)

Even with the benevolent San Lorenzo as the sample size, going at 2014 Gran Selezione is like trying to crack a walnut shell with your teeth, the husk so tough you might break two or more trying. What is noted in the single-vineyard San Lorenzo is a hyperbole of 2014’s general characteristics; firm grip, savour, herbology and liqueur. There is extreme Gran Selezione personality humming in San Lorenzo and help me if two years are needed simply for assessment and five for the drinking window to open. The attention to soil and Ama’s prized Gaiole in Chianti climat is duly noted, as is the careful selection from the vintage. I will say this. No amount of selection, barrel or time can allow Gran Selezione to escape from 2014. In the short term it will be a downfall, in the long, long, long run a blessing. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2017  @CastellodiAma  @castellodiama  @HalpernWine  castellodiama  halpernwine  @halpernwine

Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Riserva Di Fizzano Single Vineyard 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (699454, $33.95, WineAlign)

Only 7,000 bottles (as opposed to 30,000 in 2013) were produced and I think I can say with utmost certainly that this single-vineyard Fizzano is and will be the most approachable Gran Selezione out of 2014. The vineyard demands ripe and bright fruit, not too much coveting and even less wood. There is no heat and little to less herbs and savour on the nose. The palate is all smoky raspberry, smouldering rich and very near to coming into present and accounted for balance. Sweetness follows, mostly from fine, resolving tannin and then a return engagement with the perfumed, coulis fruit. Sergio Zingarelli tells me the harvest said great things to his winemaking team so the vintage’s already earned reputation is not what is deserved. The Fizzano is unctuous and savoury but pure and structured and blessed with such chewy, crunchy red fruit. It carries that no lo so liqueur of fruit that will survive and seek a truffled addendum in its tertiary future. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted twice, at Anteprima Chianti Classico, February 2017 and ProWein, March 2017  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione La Fornace 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.95, WineAlign)

La Fornace was planted in 1975 in close proximity to the Greve River and its sandier soils bring a contradistinct voice to Chianti Classico produced off of other vineyards on the estate. “The Furnace” is so aptly named because of its solar exposure and how the wine takes it in, bathes in it and extricates it to texture. The plot is not denied some of the typical brick-gray Calcinaia clay and the variegation leads to a beautiful exaggeration of the Capponi sangiovese stylistic. Compared to and in conjunction of what I tasted out of barrel for ’15 this completes the Fornace picture, in line with the texture but leaning away from those sweet accents and returning back to more pure and distinct sangiovese roots. Much time will be needed to elongate those angles. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione La Bastignano 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.95, WineAlign)

I’m not certain whether La Bastignano should translate to “good fortune or “good luck,” (buona fortuna or in bocca al lupo) but regardless of the nomenclature this Chianti Classico Gran Selezione will bring great happiness at some point halfway through the next decade. It is actually called Bastignano after the name of the holding on which the vineyards grow and the name refers to one of the four originally poderi of 1524. Bastignano is to me the most poignant and specific gaze into the mirror rendering of sangiovese, the Villa Calcinaia estate and the maker, a.k.a. Conte Sebastiano Capponi. This Greve in Chianti GS is such an ulterior varietal expression from less clay, more silt, less texture and more elastic structure as a result. There is less density in Bastignano, it’s more elegant and in single-vineyard Gran Selezione, reaching for the ethereal, especially out of 2014, because it has been handled with delicate hands. You get the grilling meats, herbs and an impression that is all location. The wine of place more than any in the Calcinaia line-up, with just a hint of concentrated earth on the finish. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Ambassadors of @chianticlassico to the world. 2013 #castellodigabbiano #granselezione (not pictured) will blow your mind #treasurywineestates #sancascianovaldipesa #ilbellezza #chianticlassicoriserva

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2013

Castello Di Gabbiano Gran Selezione Bellezza Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Tasted with winemaker Federico Cerelli alongside the new era ushering 2012, a wine with six months further resolve, which is really just a moment in life. Looking at this 2013 it clings to that ’12’s ideal, still firm and in need of down time, stirring still, wasting some time. Here a gear switch, alteration and adjustment. A reduction of new oak, an increase of the mineral cogitation specific to the Albarese soil, with tannins great like in 2012 but finer, more elegant. This is more classic in the sangiovese thought because what also is allowed is the level of dry extract, “over 30 for sure” notes Cerelli. This Bellezza is pure sangiovese, the best Bellezza in years, classic to remind of many years ago but a very modern wine. It is the Gabbiano predicament and the predilection to announce what Gran Selezione means so in a word, bravo. You could actually drink this now and then over 25 years. “What is Bellezza? This is the best block of the estate” is the answer as told by Federico. Great tannins, simply great tannins. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted May 2016 and February 2017  @castgabbiano  @MarkAnthonyWine  castellodigabbiano  markanthonyon  @castellogabbiano  Ivano Reali (Castello Di Gabbiano)

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign)

The current incarnation of the single-vineyard Gran Selezione from “la vigna del Convento” is a wildly rich and structured, intuitive and interpretive expression. The vineyard resides in a great Radda amphitheatre, situated on the slope beneath Il Convento di Radda in Chianti. Winemaker Bernardo Bianchi does nothing to veer away from the house-composed, let the vineyard speak style, from a sun-worshipping, ambitious yet wise, 22 year-old Galestro soil block at a high Chianti Classico 500m peak. All together making for the new super Riserva of restrained power and elegance. If the aromatics in 2011 were of a wow factor they are somehow, magically and inexplicably improved upon in 2013. The field of flowering greens, the deep way you inhale the fruit and above all else, the mineral of this Galestro. It pervades and attacks, especially on the palate but when you taste sangiovese like this you understand the disconnected exaggerations, over-stressed acidity and the (comparative) imbalance in some of the GS peers. Bereto’s is one of the finest Gran Selezione and worthy of every charged sip. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted February 2017    @NokhrinWines  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto

Le Fonti di Panzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

From Vicky Schmitt-Vitali in Panzano, the ’13 Gran Selezione is already showing some lovely evolution. There is a sumptuousness and sweet culminating vintage victory in this fruit with certain deep clay mineral undertones. This really delves down and mines for Galestro and as a result is somewhat mysterious mineral stuff. Acidity is beautifully integrated though not quite of the magical layering that can be displayed by the greats in the greatest vintages. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @LeFontiPanzano  Fattoria Le Fonti – Panzano  @TheVine_RobGroh  @thevineto  poderelefonti

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Sorleone 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $61.95, WineAlign)

The sangiovese means of communication comes in many types, some old and some new, like Villa A Sesta, the sixth estate, from the Siena hills in Castelnuovo Berardenga. Sorleone, the lion’s lion, for the lion, a sangiovese of great presence, of fruit over matter, mineral over mind and acidity in every facet of being. While it’s certainly striking and leaves the deepest of impression, in one respect this is quintessential Gran Selezione because it’s so perfectly Chianti Classico and on the other hand it’s a raging machine. So the question begs how long it will take to simmer, integrate and roar down. How much time does the pride of the Gallo Nero need to find its new age, reggae rastafari, Judah zion beat? It will, but that’s in upwards of 10 more years time. Fantastic display of alpha male GS. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @villa_a_sesta  @StemWineGroup  #villaasesta  stemwinegroup  @villaasesta  @stemwine

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione La Prima 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $60.00, WineAlign)

Vicchiomaggio’s ’13 was released just two months ago from the single vineyard La Prima, named for the first vineyard planted by British-Italian winemaker John Matta. On a hill built upon Galestro soil, of rock and clay facing south towards Greve in Chianti. A warm and very heartening Chianti Classico this is, deeply rich in fruit but with both feet deeply planted in that mixed earth. It’s herbaceous in its sweet coulis and lingers long. It’s the structure upon this length that brings perpetual strength. This Gran Selezione would help to push that boulder up the hill. You can count on it. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017  @vicchiomaggio  @SignatureWS1  castellovicchiomaggio  Castello Vicchiomaggio

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2012

Concadoro Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Concadoro, from Castellina in Chianti, as opposed to the Conca d’Oro, in Panzano. A slightly musty and even a touch more soil funky for Gran Selezione so aeration is an absolute must. Don’t be afraid to splash this one around and get your hands wet. It needs the air, the multi-decant and the love. It is so much better off for the attention. What you are gifted is great clay with minerals lying in soak at the water table’s basin. You get unnamed fruit, red and rusty, rosy and ruby, ropey and wildly pure. You have curative and restorative power from the sort of GS (that’s just got to be 100 per cent sangiovese) that was always this way and will go forward the same. The fruity roll up flavour is no child’s play candy. It is marbled and textured. Very fibrous sangiovese with tremendous upside, given the shake up and four more years of patience. The old happen upon Gran Reserva Rioja parallel is drawn upon once again. Drink 2021-2034.  Tasted February 2017    Agriturismo Concadoro  #concadoro

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2012 comes structured from a vintage with frost in May that compromised 50 per cent of the crop and as a result, bestowed lowest of low yields and concentrated berries. After that happenstance of natural selection the vintage turned to hot and dry, with great weather at harvest. This is and could only have developed into a fleshy and magnanimous Gran Selezione with acidity equivocal and anti-acrimonious to bones draped with the ripest of fruit. And it’s a good thing the acidity is set to high because that fruit and richness will need it going forward. Such a GS had to be crafted this way, with compound aggression and aggressive behaviour. Ultimately defines what it means to be affirmative action Gran Selezione. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @Ilmolinodigrace  Il Molino Di Grace  Frontier Wine Merchants  ilmolinodigrace

Melini Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Terrarossa 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Melini is found in Radda in Chianti and their Gran Selezione clearly ear marks from terra rossa soil, a red clay soil variegate found in Radda and other Chianti Classico locales, like Carrobbio in Panzano. A musty note but once again it’s aeration and agitation that opens the gates to charm and appreciation. I don’t get 100 per cent sangiovese here, more like merlot and cabernet mixed in with the dusty, currant, Cassis, tomato leaf and peppery jolts accenting and sidling alongside the sangiovese. The mineral-saline aroma sears ahead of the fruit which is also bright of light cherry. There is some microbial activity noted and the palate falls a bit flat so this is surely not the most sound example. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Sergio Zingarelli 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $122.95, WineAlign)

This is the flagship wine from the famed estate, a Gran Selezione that bears the patriarchal Sergio Zingarelli name. As expected it is a richer, deeper and depth welling GS, clearly aimed towards the crowning achievement of place, more hedonism, but of course, seeking purity and elegance. The extra year or two in bottle means integration and wood having subsided a bit. “We decided to change the vineyard in 1974 in front of Rocca to be the best vineyard with the best grapes and we will produce our best wine,” I am told by Zingarelli as we taste at ProWein. What was 90 per cent sangiovese (planted in 1999-2000) this 2012 is accented by colorino but in 2014 it will be 100 per cent sangiovese. Elegant as much as sangiovese and Gran Selezione will likely ever strive to be. It is hard not to be impressed with this wine. It bursts with the essence of plums and richest of red cherries, but it’s not without it’s requisite crunch and chew. The absence of astringency is remarkable and speaks to the quality of the fruit and the gentle touch while working with such phenolic ability. Start drinking this anytime. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted March 2017  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie

Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione San Marcellino 2012, DOCG Tuscany Italy (Agent, $59.00, WineAlign)

When the names San Marcellino and Monti in Chianti are invoked for Chianti Classico it evokes a singular sort of tradition and understanding. Stir in the grapes of a vineyard raised in the shadow of the 1000 year-old Pieve San Marcellino, 20-25 per cent of which are pulled from vines 50-plus years old and some ghosts will be summoned. Historians will recall that in 1039 Azzi di Geremia Ricasoli gave his brother all the rights he had on the district and many territorial disputes were to follow. Now in 2017 this 2012 top quality Gran Selezione is the current embodiment of all that tortuous history with welling tension of its own. Two years in barriques plus two more in bottle should be plenty to sooth a savage beast but this ’12 is not there yet. Thankfully a five per cent inclusion (since 2006) of local, endemic Pugnitello raises the complexity, complexion and complimentary game, lifting the sangiovese to bright heights. Red to black fruits on the nose give way to a mouthfeel that is surprisingly unshackling for top-tier Chianti Classico, in fact it’s soothing and comfortable. This is a tale of two Gran Selezione in one glass so leave it be for two years. Seamlessness awaits. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017  #roccadimontegrossi  @RoccadiMontegrossi  Devon Masciangelo  #roccadimontegrossi

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Di Monna Lisa 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Vignamaggio’s Monna Lisa is blessed of demurred and beautifully hazy spirit, like a painting imbued of an artist’s ability to render a spiritual glow. Aromatics are delicate and lifted, certainly ripe berry and rendered by south exposure sunshine. This Gran Selezione is classic Greve in Chianti in every way, riper than many other Chianti Classico because of hill orientation, exposition and location. As always, when such a wine delivers more on the palate than it had in its shy way on the nose, success is immediately qualified. This carries that necessary but never overbearing acidity. Ingenuity and genuine honesty collide in a perfect world from what has to be the Monna Lisa’s great GS vintage. Bravo. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @vignamaggio  @HHDImports_Wine  Vignamaggio  vignamaggio

Two soils of Bibbiano

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2011

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The vineyard “Del Capannino” was planted in the 1950’s by the late great Giulio Gambelli, assistant to Tancredi Biondi-Santi. Not surprisingly and in connection to Brunello di Montalcino it is a clonal planting of sangiovese grosso, with further propagation done in the 1990s. The rich Albarese soil of Del Capannino enjoys the finest exposure and microclimate on the estate and is considered the best expression of Bibbiano’s “genius loci,” the spirit of the place. The first single vineyard vintage was 1998 and the Riserva designation switched to Gran Selezione in 2014, retroactive to the 2010 vintage. Today Bibbiano uses Botti (di rovere) Grande and Tonneaux (beginning in 2008) after barriques had been used for years. Still and always has been 100 per cent grosso, the only producer to do so in Chianti Classico. And so theirs is a liqueur that of course takes your mind to Brunello but this is purely Castellina and Chianti Classico so don’t be confused or tempted to settle for idyll comparisons. This has freshness, purity and that enticing meets teasing acidity, certainly consistent with and of no divergence to Bibbiano style. Ties to CC and CCR are blatant, necessary and so very pleasing. There is great structure but you can think about drinking this in its youth. It wont let out all its secrets but it will begin to tell its story. A story of territory. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @bibbianowines  VineWhys Wine Experts  @bibbianowines  bibbianowines

Casa Di Monte Chianti Classico Riserva Gran Selezione Le Capitozze 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From San Casciano Val di Pesa, Casa Di Monte’s Le Capitozze, perhaps meaning “the spires.” This is the outlier, deeply perfumed and full of mentholated deep rub that wafts with reckless abandon from the glass. The volatility is part Brett and part over indulgence in minty-herbaceous behaviour. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted February 2017  Azienda agricola Casa di Monte  #capitozze

Passolini Dall’onda Chianti Classico Riserva Gran Selezione Sicelle 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From Barberino Val d’Elsa Sicelle is a fine Gran Selezione is a fine example here of how rich, ripe and strident fruit walks side by side with ripping acidity, never quite forming a perfect unison of cells, yet finding a way to coexist parallel to one another. This is a strong and red liquid ruby, tart and powerful example that certainly needs time to settle. Drink 2019-2023 Tasted February 2017  Fattoria Pasolini dall’Onda Borghese  #FattoriaPasolinidallOnda

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Marinai’s Panzano Gran Selezione 2011 is 100 per cent pulled from the lower slope beginning at 450m and up to 550 called I Cappano, adjacent to La Massa, facing southeast (and also towards Carobbio). At this apropos time it is showing some lessening and integrating volatility along with some drying red fruit, that GS liqueur and plenty of barrique. It’s real time barrel stay is nine months in big barrel plus 18 in barrique. The vines are still quite young (in and around 15 years-old) but the galestro here is a mineral of will and strength. The style is so very 1990’s but one that has been accomplished with great acumen and skill. It’s the style, loyal to the estate and with the accompaniment of great structure. Like 1997 in so many ways. If you want to know something about the house philosophy, the words of the poet Iori Marinai may shed some light. “Come si fa a morire senza aver mai baciato un fiore? Or… “How do you die without ever kissing a flower?” Drink 2019-2026. Tasted February 2017    #renzomarinai  Renzo Marinai Panzano

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Nerento 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (459685, $39.95, WineAlign)

Nerento lies at the heart of the Trasqua Vineyards and the vines take root in the deep red soil. The name might be mythical, a tree of life reference or from the Latin “nerent,” meaning courting. This is Gran Selezione that courts like a suitor, charming and suave but built on power and a deep liqueur, like at the bottom of a pure well. The sangiovese is still very kissed by wood and locked shut. The first bottle (over dinner) needed more than one hour to open, eventually releasing fresh florals (violets especially), herbs, savour and forest floor. The second bottle next day was not so eager to do the same. This is compact, woven, textured and refined sangiovese with forceful (and the promise of) delicate tannins. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted twice, February 2017     Villa Trasqua  @HULSI_II  Frontier Wine Merchants

Good to go!

Godello

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